Flying Fijians coach keeping close eye on local talent

While the prospect of international rugby remains up in the air, Flying Fijians coach Vern Cotter is taking a closer look at locally based talent.

The former Scotland head coach was unveiled as the new Fiji mentor in January but has yet to step foot in the country because of Covid-19.

He's currently back home in New Zealand, where Fiji's Skipper Cup domestic competition is being screened on TV.

"I watched the Nadroga vs Namosi game this last weekend so when I'm able to watch the Skipper Cup, the Farebrother Trophy I've enjoyed watching it," he said.

"All I can say to the players is - there's a lot of enthusiasm and I love the crowds occasion as well - is just to play as best as possible.

"I can see there's a lot of pride in the competition and what it means to the players."

The 2020 Skipper Cup kicked off two weeks ago and has been bolstered with the injection of some overseas-based Fijian stars who have returned home because of the global pandemic.

Players from the Fijian Drua and national sevens squads were also taking part and Vern Cotter said FRU staff were keeping tabs on those pushing for higher honours.

"There will be some testing done on candidates, people that put their hand up there will be some testing done, so the first requirement is the physical requirement," he said.

"We know that international rugby is a step-up and we need players that are going to work hard and be prepared physically to meet the challenge of these teams - and especially if we play against England, Wales and Ireland in November we need to be ready physically."

Vern Cotter is also keeping a close eye on prospective Fijian players taking part in Super Rugby in New Zealand and Australia, including Chiefs number eight Pita Gus Sowakula and Blues prop Alex Hodgman.

He confirmed last week in an interview with NZME that former Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson had signed on to be the Flying Fijians assistant coach.

The former All Black midfielder spent four years in charge of New South Wales and also had a brief stint as a technical advisor with Manu Samoa in 2016.

Crusaders forwards coach Jason Ryan, former Scottish international Richie Gray and ex test referee Glen Jackson have also agreed to join the Flying Fijians coaching team.