Sport: Cook Islands change 7's coach for Olympic qualifier
The Cook Islands Rugby Union explain why they appointed a new women's sevens coach for June's Olympic qualifying tournament.
The Cook Islands Rugby Union says a coaching change was necessary before June's final Olympic women's sevens qualifier.
Matt Atiga guided the Cook Islands to a third place finish at November's Oceania Championship, but has been replaced by former New Zealand squad member Crystal Kaua.
Cook Islands Rugby Union CEO Ben Koteka told Vinnie Wylie Atiga's contract was terminated last month following a difference in opinion over the team's preparations for that event.
BEN KOTEKA: It was just one of the changes which we had to make and really grateful to be able to receive a real quality applicant like Crystal as well as she will be assisted by her husband Brent too, so I think that makes for a nice little combo moving forward, as the girls prepare for the repechage tournament to be played up in Dublin.
VINNIE WYLIE: It's been about five months since the Oceania Championship - what's the last five month's been like as the preparation continue towards Dublin.
BK: I guess it has been just a bit sort of fragmented - the girls have obviously returned back to their homes as well as their full-time jobs so again we're just having to go through that process again, in terms of issuing out the (training) programmes and trying to manage and sort of monitor the girls leading into the June tournament.
VW: Is there any prospect of significant match-play before the June repechage?
BK: See, that's been one of the issues in terms of trying to get build-up games. Obviously it's fifteens season for example in New Zealand, where the bulk of our players are, but we've just been very fortunate to be invited to participate in a four-team tournament, which will be played in May and thank you very much to (former Cook Island men's coach) Chad Tuoro of the New Zealand Rugby Union. The girls will be playing two tournaments in May - the first one I think will be on the 7th and 8th and the second one will be played three weeks later on the 28th and 29th of May...that will be played up in Auckland. Some of the details are just coming through but the girls will be Cook Islands, Samoa and two New Zealand women's sevens teams will be playing in a four-team tournament, hopefully playing about six games each weekend, so that should help with preparation.
VW: Was that one of the issues that led to the change in coach?
BK: No, it was just a little issue to do with in terms of trying to get the team up (to Europe) early, that's all - just with the whole sort of lead in so we just had to make a change in there.
VW: The phrase that was used in the statement was a "difference of opinion?"
VW: So the contract for Crystal - is this just for this repechage, just preparing them for that event at this point?
BK: It would just be our standard - hopefully Crystal will just take us through into this repechage as well as into the Oceania Sevens tournament for the women, which will be played around September as well as October, then we can look to review that at the end of the year.
VW: And do you anticipate much changes in terms of the style of play or the players selected?
BK: I kind of anticipate that all the girls are on board and, like I said, we're just going to all get over that little obstacle and all need to move forward together.
VW: Obviously it's a huge opportunity to potentially make it to Rio. What sort of expectations do the Cook Islands have on how you could go over there?
BL: Obviously we're not going up there to sort of make up the numbers - we're obviously there to try and qualify for Rio and we just need to ensure that our plan is nice and solid and we just do the best that we can do. I'm actually very sort of excited now that we've taken on Crystal and her management team and just really looking forward to putting in a really good performance.
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