Super Rugby

Super Rugby's Fijian Drua appoint Aussie as first head coach

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Mick Byrne. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Mick Byrne. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Super Rugby newcomers Fijian Drua on Friday named former Australian Rules champion Mick Byrne as the team's head coach for their debut season next year.

Byrne has previously worked as skills coach for the All Blacks, Australia, Japan and Scotland, as well as serving as assistant coach for the Auckland-based Blues.

The 62-year-old took an unusual path to coaching rugby, first working with the code after a playing career with Australian Rules club Hawthorne.

"To have someone with Mick's calibre and experience as our foundation head coach is fantastic," Drua interim chief executive Brian Thorburn said.

"He is a seasoned professional and shone through the intensive selection process by displaying real passion for the club and Fijian rugby."

Byrne, who was appointed on a two-year contract, said the Drua would face a challenging opening season, when they will be based in Australia, but said it was a chance to develop Fijian rugby.

"I've 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 is one of two new sides introduced to the revamped Super Rugby Pacific competition for next season, along with Moana Pasifika, which will be based in New Zealand.

Their inclusion is designed to allow the Pacific nations of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to retain top talent instead of constantly seeing players head overseas in search of professional opportunities.

The 12-team competition, which also features five teams each from Australia and New Zealand, is scheduled to kick off on 18 February.

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