Fiji's World Cup preparations dealt a blow as coach cut from staff

The perennial problem of how to fund the Fiji Rugby Union appears to have forced head coach John McKee to cut one of his support staff in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Peter Ryan, who has been looking after the Fijian defence, has taken to social media to announce that his role has ended with the national team due to the country’s World Cup budget having been spent.

Fiji held a camp in France earlier this year as part of their preparations and are expected to be a serious threat to pool opponents Wales and Australia at the tournament as they will be able to assemble their first-choice squad, including key players who are operating in Europe.

However, it has now been alleged that budgetary concerns – which have been a constant worry for all of the Pacific Islands nations – have become a factor, with Ryan stating on social media: “Just wanting to let everyone know that I have been informed by John McKee (head coach) that Fiji Rugby Union have overspent their World Cup budget.

“Due to this I will no longer be working with Fiji. Very disappointed. I was expecting to achieve something special but alas this will not happen. I just want to wish the Fiji rugby players all the very best in the endeavours.”

However, the Fijian rugby authorities, who say that that the defence brief will now be picked top by another one of McKee’s assistants, insist that the allegation they have overspent their budget is false. They claim they made their decision to cut Ryan loose to stay on budget and not overspend.

A former rugby league and union player whose other role is as the Queensland Reds defence coach, Ryan was appointed by the FRU in 2017 to support McKee.

At that time the union said: “The FRU welcomes Ryan into the Fiji rugby family and looks forward to his specialized contribution towards the enhancement of the elite teams’ defence codes which we are confident will lead to improved performances through the rugby structures in Fiji.”