The Fiji reaction to losing assistant Jason Ryan to the All Blacks

Fiji boss Vern Cotter has finally shared his thoughts on the sudden loss of forwards coach Jason Ryan to the All Blacks.

The assistant has been working with the Pacific Islanders since 2020 and had been signed until the 2023 Rugby World Cup finals in France. 

However, he will now be at that tournament as an All Blacks assistant after he was recruited last weekend by New Zealand Rugby when they opted to bring in Ryan to assist Ian Foster and jettison John Plumtree and Brad Mooar. 

Ryan, who had combined his Fiji role with assisting the Super Rugby champion Crusaders, was part of the management that recently oversaw the latest Pacific Nations Cup campaign, a July schedule where an opening round win over Tonga was followed by losses to Australia A and Samoa.

The departure of Ryan came 14 months before a World Cup featuring pool matches versus Wales, Australia, Georgia and a still-to-be-confirmed qualifier and Fiji boss Cotter said the chance to coach the All Blacks was an opportunity his forwards coach couldn’t refuse.

“This gives us a few options moving forward,” said Cotter to the Fiji Sun. “It should not disrupt too much as I’m not too far away from the forwards and what they have been doing with Jason. This [the set-piece] is where we can control games better. There will be a coach but the players are part of this theme moving forward.”

Cotter gave no indication as to who he might recruit following the departure of Ryan from the Fiji ticket but ex-international Sireli Bobo reckoned a local coach must be added to management in order to better motivate the players who threw away a 17-3 half-time lead against Samoa to lose by three points. 

“Many fans blamed the coach and his coaching staff but they had done their job,” said Bobo. “It’s the players’ attitude and how they prepare them­selves mentally to get into a crunch match. The fact is, that we lost right here at home, right in our backyard, to a team that hardly beat us both home and away. It’s just unacceptable given the calibre of players and the records we have.

“These players should learn to have pride in the white jersey because they are not playing for themselves: they are playing for the peo­ple of Fiji. They have a huge responsibil­ity when they put on that jersey. They are taking things lightly. 

“I don’t know if they know the culture, history and significance of the Flying Fijians jersey and how important it is to represent their country. These players should know and understand their pur­pose – why they want to represent Fiji and who they are playing for.

“It seems they don’t have passion for their country and even pride for the jer­sey. The players should take a really good look at themselves.

“They [Fiji’s overseas coaches] don’t know how to switch our players on. It takes one Fijian to know the other. Our players respond to the tough words used on them to psyche them up. Our players need to be told things straight on their faces.

“It is things like their haircuts and atti­tude that they should work on. How they present themselves to the public is very important. This is the Flying Fiji­ans team, not a club team. Talent can take you anywhere, but your attitude carries you.”