irb.com and James Mortimer 21.Apr.2013Getty
Speaking at the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU) AGM in Nadi on Saturday where 16 Oceania Unions gathered for a programme of strategic workshops and meetings, the IRB Chief Executive led the tributes as the Union officially marked 100 years of Rugby.
"Fiji had been an impressive and inspirational flag-bearer for Rugby and its character-building values on the world stage for 100 years and I know that I speak for the entire global Rugby community when I congratulate the Union on 100 years of great feats on and off the field," said Gosper.
"Fijian Rugby teams are synonymous with entertainment, skill, passion and pride in Sevens and Fifteens and as we reflect on the past century of rich Rugby heritage and history, we can also look to a very bright future for Fijian Rugby. In a year where we celebrate the induction of Waisale Serevi into the IRB Hall of Fame, who in many ways represents everything the Rugby world has come to love about Fijian Rugby, there is a genuine sense of excitement that the country’s best times are yet to come."
At the AGM, Gosper also reaffirmed the IRB's commitment to the ongoing support of the development of Rugby in Oceania, stating that exciting times lie ahead for Fiji and its Rugby-loving Pacific Island neighbours.
“Rugby is reaching out to more men, women and children around the world than ever before and Oceania continues to be at the forefront of that growth. The IRB is committed to ensuring that Fiji and the Pacific Island Unions have the financial, competition and administrative support required to foster that growth and continue to make giant strides on the world stage as we look towards Rugby Sevens’ Olympic Games debut at Rio 2016 and two Rugby World Cups.”
“Between 2009 and 2012 we invested nearly £16 million and in 2013 we will be investing a further £4.65 in development, regional tournaments and high performance programmes for the Pacific Islands. All aimed at raising performances and providing the necessary infrastructure and support to continue to compete at the highest level.”
Fiji is currently flying high in the HSBC Sevens World Series, having won the recent Hong Kong Sevens, while the women's team will make an historic Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens debut in Moscow in June. Next year the men's Fifteens national team will bid to qualify for an eighth-successive Rugby World Cup when they take on the winner of the 2013 Oceania Cup.
This year, Fiji will have a comprehensive Test calendar with participation in an expanded IRB Pacific Nations Cup and three Test matches in November. A new world-class national stadium is due to be opened shortly, reflecting the ambitions of a Union that wants to welcome and defeat the world’s top teams on home soil.