Ratu Epeli officially opened a two day conference organized by the Fiji Rugby Union as part of its 100th centennial celebrations with the theme “Reflections on the past, present and future”.
Ratu Epeli said it was important to recognize those people who nurture the sport below the level of national teams and international competitions.
“We must remember that except for a tiny minority, rugby remains an amateur game. We must acknowledge of the importance of the selfless work of sub-union, club and school officials and volunteers who organize village sides, run the touchlines and referee matches,” Ratu Epeli said.
“These are, and always have been, the foundations of rugby in Fiji. Indeed, if we really want to understand the state of our game and its future, perhaps we should look at the bedrock of community rather than the latest international result.”
“Here in Fiji, we might look to rugby in a similar spirit. Over the past century, rugby helped put our country on the map. Perhaps in the next 100 years this sport can forge an even greater sense of unity and community for all of us in Fiji,” he added
Ratu Epeli highlighted the importance of utilising the conference to seek complex answers and constructive solutions pertaining to the sport in the country.
“I would like to encourage the Fiji Rugby Union to continue to consider a holistic approach to rugby. The sport must continue to be developed at both the local and national levels for both social and competitive purposes. There are many benefits to be achieved in both these areas,” Ratu Epeli said.
Ratu Epeli also acknowledged efforts of academics who have recently been appointed to the Fiji Rugby Union Board.
“I am pleased to note the inclusion into the FRU Board of Academic Dr Esther Williams from USP. I am of the view that FRU should continue to invest in a scientific approach to assist the development of rugby especially at the competitive level,” Ratu Epeli said.
“As we face challenges of introducing reforms that will help shape Fiji rugby’s future, I am optimistic that the Fiji Rugby Union will continue to strive for the betterment and development of rugby in the country,” Ratu Epeli added.
The two-day conference will feature key speakers such as former New Zealand Rugby Seven’s captain Eric Rush and academics from around the region.