The Fiji Rugby Union hopes to announce the new Flying Fijians coach at the end of this week.

This is after the last round of presentations by the shortlisted candidates in Suva on the weekend.

Senirusi Seruvakula and Swire Shipping Fijian Drua coach Mick Byrne on Saturday presented to the panel.

When approached, Byrne said all questions are to be directed to the Board.

According to FRU Trust Board Chair, Peter Mazey, they’re still going through due process like checking on the coaches’ referees, etc.

Meanwhile, former Flying Fijians head coach Simon Raiwalui says it is critical for Pacific Island rugby unions to recruit coaches that understand the culture and the people.

Raiwalui, now World Rugby’s High Performance Pathway and Player Development Manager, was in Tonga last week meeting with the Tonga Rugby Union officials.

He said that is how he would view applications for the position of the ‘Ikale Tahi rugby team head coach that is now being advertised.

“For me being from the Pacific Islands, being Fijian, we have very similar cultures to Tonga and Samoa. It has to be a cultural thing,” Raiwalui said at a news conference in Nuku’alofa.

“There has to be a connection to the people, who we are, what is important to us, our why, why do we play for Tonga. What’s important for us in the red jersey.

“All that aspect will be looked when you looking at a head coach.”

Raiwalui said it is also critical to have a good support team that will work with the coach.

That support, he said, needs to be aligned through a program, in whatever roles the support team members will play.

He said good coaches will need the support and technicality needs to work in alignment too with culture and the needs of the country.

“All those aspects will need to come into it and it’s just not the exercise on the field,” the Flying Fijians head coach at the 2023 Rugby World Cup said.

“It needs to have people who will speak to Tonga, what is important to Tonga.

“If you are going ask people to invest in the team you must invest in the people. The players must understand as well. There’s a real cultural fit there. It’s not an easy selection.”

Tonga Rugby is currently seeking expressions of interest for the position of head coach of the ‘Ikale Tahi.

The new coach will replace former coach Toutai Kefu who took the team to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Fiji is also finalising its head coach for the Flying Fijians, to replace Raiwalui, who did not renew his contract when it expired in December.

Raiwalui was able to meet with the TRU acting chief executive ‘Aisea Aholelei and the union executives, discussing academy, player pathways and development needs.

“We wanted to see how they are doing, what they are doing and how we can help and assist them,” he added.

Raiwalui was in Fiji on the weekend to check on the High Performance Unit work there before flying to Samoa this week.

The former Flying Fijians captain is now heavily involved with the Pacific islands in his new role at World Rugby and is expected to sit on selection panels for coaches for the different island teams.

In another development, the New Zealand Rugby Union will continue to work with the Pacific Island rugby unions in developing the game across all levels.

New Zealand Rugby’s Professional Rugby and Performance general manager Chris Lendrum told RNZ Pacific in Wellington they have long standing relationships with all unions.

He said they were supportive of the Drua and Moana Pasifika inclusions in the Super Rugby competition, for both men and women.

And they support Samoa and Tonga on building rugby academy pathways through to Moana Pasifika, working with Oceania Rugby

Lendrum said both the Drua and Moana Pasifika set-ups have made big contributions to the Super Rugby competition and rugby in the three countries.

“It was the missing link in the high performance chain for the three teams,” he added.

He said the New Zealand Rugby will continue to work on a combined women’s rugby competition for the region plus more international matches for the Pacific Island teams.

He said NZRU is also working on giving more game time between the Silver Ferns and the Pacific teams.

“We had our Black Ferns play Manusina towards the end of 2023,” he said.

“Women’s rugby is exploding in the Pacific and so this is a huge opportunity as we build the domestic competition in this region and also more international rugby linking directly with the teams in the pacific region.”

Lendrum revealed that both Fiji and Japan are currently part of discussions on their possible inclusions into the Rugby Championships.

He said two areas of importance to their inclusions are their performances on the field and their ability to manage finance, which will go back to the respective union’s administration and management work.

He said while Fiji has been given a Test match against the All Blacks this year others would be considered in future.