The Chairman of World Rugby, Bill Beaumont.
The Vice Chairman, CEO and other officials,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
I guess there are few places in the world where the country’s leader is also the president of the local Rugby Union. But that is the case in Fiji and I’m very proud of the fact. Because it reflects the importance of rugby in our national life and the value we place here in paradise on “the game they play in heaven”.
On behalf of every Fijian, I want to extend the warmest of welcomes to our distinguished visitors – the hierarchy of World Rugby led by Chairman Bill Beaumont and his team – Agustin Pichot, Brett Gosper, David Carrigy and John Jeffrey.
It is a great honour to have played host to you in Fiji for the first ever meeting in the Pacific Islands of the World Rugby Committee. Just as it is an honour to host the union representatives from Tonga and Samoa, Fiji’s rivals in the Pacific Nations Cup but above all our neighbours and friends.
It was a wonderful game in Suva on Saturday and for Fiji, an uncomfortably close score – 23-18. Vinaka vakalevu, Tonga, for a great spectacle. We certainly look forward to meeting Samoa this weekend. But while we all play to win as individual nations, it is the health of rugby in our region that ultimately binds us together and is our main priority. And we very much appreciate the importance that is being attached by World Rugby to strengthening the game in the islands.
This Committee meeting has been an important part of that effort, including the presentation of our high performance and competition reports today. You’ve been able to hear not only from the three regional unions but the newly established Pacific Island Players’ Association. And this renewed emphasis on the needs of our players is reflected on the committee itself with the choice of Richie McGaw as the players’ representative. Rugby greats don’t come any greater than Richie and it’s been wonderful to again welcome him to Fiji.
Mr Chairman, ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a great era for rugby in the Pacific in both the 15s and the 7s and the game has never been stronger or more popular. My Government has contributed 2-million dollars towards bringing the Super 15s to Fiji for the first time and we all look forward to the Crusaders and the Chiefs going head to head at the ANZ Stadium on July the 1st.
Beyond that, every Fijian, of course, is hoping our World Champion 7s team can bring back our first gold medal from the Rio Olympics in August. We’d like to eventually host the World Sevens competition here in Fiji. And we all look forward to the first Rugby World Cup in Asia in 2019.
I want to thank World Rugby for financing the Pacific Nations Cup and for everything else you are doing to strengthen the game, including improving our standards of governance. I can assure you of the full support of both the Fiji Rugby Union and the Fijian Government for this program of reform. Because whatever the challenges it has brought, it is ultimately good for the code, good for the players and good for everyone who loves rugby.
Again, welcome to Fiji, I hope it is where happiness finds you. And please enjoy the rest of the evening.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.