6 May 2014

Sport: New Flying Fijians coach to hit ground running

From , 5:02 am on 6 May 2014

The new Fiji rugby coach, John McKee, says despite his late appointment planning for the June internationals is already well underway.

McKee has been promoted from his role as Fiji Rugby's High Performance Manager and replaces Inoke Male, who was sacked in January.

He has held a range of coaching positions in Australia and Europe but told Vinnie Wylie that his background in the Pacific, with Tonga and the Pacific Islanders, means he is ready to go.

JOHN MCKEE: So I understand the particular nuances and the particular issues that you need to deal with and sometimes it is around player availability but it is certainly around preparing your teams in short windows. You don't get a lot of access to your players so you need to be really well-planned when the teams come together. I understand all the things about communicating with our player all around the world and all those types of things so I bring all that to the table. I also understand it's not just about the players - you need the support structure around the team that created the environment and the processes that lead to results. Having observed Fiji rugby for a number of years I just feel that they have underperformed and I believe I can turn that around.

VINNIE WYLIE: There has been, obviously, a  lot of disruptions in Fijian rugby, in administration. Are you confident that you're going to have a free reign to do what you need to do and have the resources that you require to do that?

JM: We need to re-engage with the IRB which is ongoing now. In my role as High Performance Manager I was involved in those discussions to get our funding back there so I think that that's very close to going back to the normal situation. It's been recognised that all the changes haven't helped them over the previous probably four or five years, when there's been a lot of change around High Performance managers and head coaches so the current board are really looking for stability going forward so I'm confident that I can really provide a good team of players and management and support staff to really bring the performance levels of the national team up".

VW: Not long until June which is an absolutely massive month. You've obviously got the Pacific Nations Cup, which is a regular thing, but of course that match against the Cook Islands is crucial in terms of you're either in the World Cup or you're not. What do you think about the challenge ahead?

JM: It's not as if I'm coming in new. In my role as High Performance Manager, because the head coach position was vacant, for the previous two months I've been doing a lot of the work that a head coach would normally do, around assisting overseas players towards selection and also the planning of the assemblies and the trainings for June, so planning for June is quite well down the track. It's not as if we were waiting for the head coach and then start thinking about what we were going to do next so from that point of view things are well on track. That World Cup qualifier is such an important game for us. As head coach obviously I'm wary of that game. I would hate people to think Fiji have got a good side and we're highly ranked compared to the Cook Islands in the world rankings so therefore we will win that game. We must make sure we prepare really well for that game and make sure we've got the best possible team assembled to be successful in that game, then we can make our plans going forward.