18 Oct 2016

Sport: Fiji's inclusion in Aussie rugby comp a boon for local game

12:54 pm on 18 October 2016

The country's inclusion in the Australian National Rugby Championship is a great opportunity to grow the domestic game, the Fiji Rugby Union says.

Discussions about joining the provincial competition have been ongoing since the start of the year between the Fiji and Australian Rugby Unions and World Rugby.

The Fiji-based team will play a minimum four home and four away matches from 2017 in a boost to their preparations towards the Rugby World Cup.

FRU Chief Executive Officer John O'Connor said the bulk of the squad was likely to come from the Fiji Warriors set-up but they hoped to attract a wide range of up and coming players.

"It's going to be a mixture of the Warriors. We want to start introducing new players from the Under 20s into the team. Also we're looking at opportunities for our players in France who want to return back home and have a few seasons, come back home and contribute to the team as a means of mentoring the younger players," he said.

Fiji Warriors celebrate winning the 2016 World Rugby Pacific Challenge.

Fiji Warriors players will make up a large chunk of players in the new franchise. Photo: Fiji Rugby

John O'Connor said the NRC will run from August until November so Fijian players will still be able to play for their local provinces before joining up with the new franchise.

"The intention from the beginning was that only players playing in our local competition would be considered to participate in the team and that's been the focus at the moment, giving opportunities to local-based players to have an avenue to [make it a profession]."

A coach has yet to be confirmed but John O'Connor said there were a few possible options being considered.

He said the franchise will also be a pathway for local coaches, strength and conditioning staff and physios.

World Rugby, the Fiji Rugby Union and the Fiji Government are all contributing to the cost of the new franchise.