WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Mick Byrne, a former skills coach for both the All Blacks and Wallabies, has been named foundation head coach of the Fijian Drua in Super Rugby Pacific.
Byrne was an Australian Rules player and coach before joining the All Blacks and later the Wallabies mainly as a kicking coach. He has also coached in England and Scotland.
Byrne’s appointment on a two-year contract was announced at a news conference on Friday and is a major step in the Drua’s progress towards their debut Super Rugby season in 2022.
Chief executive Brian Thorburn said the Drua were fortunate to sign a coach of Byrne’s caliber. The Australian-born coach has been involved in two Rugby World Cup titles, five Rugby Championships and 11 Bledisloe Cups with the All Blacks.
Byrne “is a seasoned professional and shone through the intensive selection process by displaying real passion for the club and Fijian rugby, and by outlining solid plans for success both on and off the field,” Thorburn said.
“Mick prioritizes maintaining a respectful and cordial relationship with players, staff and partners, which is particularly important for us.”
Byrne said he is “honored and proud” to be appointed.
“I have followed and admired the way Fijian teams play the game over the course of my coaching career,” he said. “It’s a style of play that puts the joy of rugby at its core and I’m very excited to help our club showcase this to the world when the new Super Rugby season starts.”
The Drua will be based in Australia’s Queensland state during their inaugural season because of pandemic quarantine and border restrictions.
“None of us are under any illusions that it will be easy,” Byrne said. “We understand the challenges ahead of us in this first season, being based away from home.
“But within that challenge lies the opportunity to grow stronger as a team and a club. It will allow us to be patient with our players, help them find their own way and naturally grow into the game we want to play.
“It will be that brand of exciting Fijian rugby that our players and fans love but with clinical aspects to it in both attack and defense. It will be hard work in our first two seasons but the journey will be rewarding and enjoyable.”
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