Bainimarama challenges Flying Fijians ahead of Rugby World Cup

Fijian Prime Minister and Fiji Rugby Union president Voreqe Bainimarama challenges the Flying Fijians to stamp its mark in this year's Rugby World Cup opening game against England.

He said rugby was a key national sport and united a nation.

Speaking at the opening of the FRU development workshop at the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji Monday,  Bainimarama said Fiji was blessed with a massive amount of local talent and resources.

He said provincial union leaders were the ones who would eventually take the Fijian brand of rugby to another level.

"We are facing England in this year's opening game of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. In the near term, our role is to make sure that our performance in this year's tournament will be an inspiration to our children and grandchildren, just as we did in 1977, when we beat the British Lions," said Mr Bainimarama.

"And in 1938, when we toured New Zealand for the first time and returned home undefeated.

"That has never been done again-not before or since-by any other national team or in 1952, when our electrifying performance against the Wallabies reignited interest in rugby in Australia.

"We have been testing the world's best with these talents.

"Imagine if we strengthen our local unions with proper governance and leadership, coaching, refereeing, strength and conditioning, and medical knowledge?

"We are very much at a crossroads, and it is time to commit: Will we carry on as we have, or do you want to leave a valuable and enduring legacy for our children and our country?

"This Rugby Development Workshop is the starting point of that change."

Bainimarama said rugby united the people for Fiji and it's high time to encourage new players especially women to be involved with the game.

"But imagine, also, the possibilities we have to lift up people through rugby. Rugby is a great unifier in this country, because all Fijians rally around our national teams.

"It can be a much greater unifier. We have before us the opportunity to encourage our women to aspire to the same championship form as our men, to encourage more women to take up the sport.

"We have before us the opportunity to increase our talent pool by encouraging people from all our communities to play rugby, beginning at a young age.

"This, in my opinion, is critical, because to draw from the largest pool of talent that we can possibly assemble in Fiji, and we cannot afford to overlook anyone. "

Among those present at the workshop were FRU general manager Tony Thorpe, national development manager Sale Sorovaki, World Rugby Development manager Bruce Cook, Flying Fijians mentor John McKee and Vodafone Fiji 7s coach Ben Ryan.