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In brief: sports news from around the Pacific

Friday 28 January 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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In brief: sports news from around the Pacific
Former All Blacks and Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne has been appointed as the new head coach of the Fijian Drua. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2010 www.photosport.nz

Coach impressed by Drua training sessions; Hunters squad named; and Bray quits Cricket Vanuatu job.

Fijian Drua coach Mick Byrne is impressed with the progress the Drua players have made in a short span of training.

Most of the players moved into base camp at Lennox Head in New South Wales at the end of last year and have been undergoing intense training to prepare for the Super Rugby Pacific season.

The former All Blacks skills coach says the players have proved themselves growing in conditioning and strength.

He says the players are mentally switched and on-field leadership is to the fore.

"Every day our players have turned up, they've been ready to go and mentally they've been switched on obviously it's the on-field leadership before every training and every single player was taught into that process".

Byrne says in a professional rugby environment which is new to most of the players, they showed the ability to bounce back the next day.

The Fijian Drua's trial match scheduled for Sunday with Western Force has been cancelled due to covid restrictions.

The team play the Warratahs on February 18th.

Hunters coach names final squad

PNG Hunters rugby league coach Matthew Church has named his final 26-man squad for the 2022 Intrust Super Cup.

Four players from the 30-man pre-season training squad have been cut while the selected players will depart today for the Gold Coast, where they will be based.

Twelve players, including veterans Ase Boas, Enoch Maki and Stanton Albert, have left the club.

With those leaving, it has created an opportunity for the next crop of players to step up and compete for spots over the past 10 weeks of pre-season training.

Young forwards in Tony Worot, Francis Kembis, Nelson Yei, Sherwin Tanabi and Kitron Laka have been impressive.

The returning forwards have been forced to go up another notch and lead by example in training as the younger forwards continue to push them.

One-time pre-season squad members Casey Dickson and Valentine Culligan have been given another opportunity to make the side while experienced forward Junior Rop has been given a second chance to prove his worth.

As far as the backline is concerned, competition for spots have been healthy but hectic.

Judah Rimbu and Solomon Pokari are considered frontrunners for the halves spots following the exit of experienced pairing in Boas and Charlie Simon. However, reigning Digicel Cup premiership-winning halves Mark Tony and Jamie Mavoko have performed admirably all pre-season.

Bray quits Cricket Vanuatu set-up

The search has begun at Cricket Vanuatu for a new high performance manager, after former Ireland international player Jeremy Bray resigned 11 months into his three-year contract for personal and pandemic reasons.

Bray created combined male and female training sessions for the leading players, which is something Cricket Vanuatu is keen to build on.

Chief executive Tim Cutler believes that the Vanuatu training model could be a success elsewhere.

Cutler is expecting no shortage of applications for the manager role with inquiries already coming in from England and India.

League player dies

Papua New Guinea rugby league player Roa Maino Gairo has died after a short illness, at the age of 26.

Team manager Raymond Aru told The National newspaper the cause of Gairo's death was yet to be confirmed as the club joined the rugby league community in mourning the back-rower's passing.

Gairo was named the Gulf Isou's 2021 player of the year following a solid campaign in the country's premier rugby league competition.

In a statement yesterday, the club acknowledged Gairo's commitment to Isou with his award being "rightly deserved for his hard work on and off the field, and leadership".

New women's Rugby World Cup qualifying process

World Rugby has confirmed details of the qualification pathway for the Women's World Cup in 2025 which will expand to 16 teams.

Under the new pathway, the RWC 2025 host nation and the four semi-finalists from the 2021 tournament will qualify directly.

The next six teams will qualify via regional competitions by 2024, with winners in Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, South America and the newly established Pacific Four Series, securing direct qualification.

There will be a final event for the remaining spots.