SUVA, Fiji, Aug 16 – Fiji’s euphoria following their historic Olympic gold medal in the rugby sevens could be tinged with sadness, with Sports Minister Laisenia Tuitubou warning Tuesday they may not be able to afford to keep coach Ben Ryan.
Tuitubou told the Fiji Times they could only hope the Englishman’s love for the South Pacific island nation and its rugby flair would convince him to remain.
Ryan’s value as a sevens coach skyrocketed after he guided the Fijian side to gold in Rio to give the tiny nation its first ever Olympic medal.
“To have Ben after the accomplishment that he made, we cannot afford,” Tuitubou said, adding that Fiji would not be able to match the offers coming in from other nations.
Ryan has said he wants to take a break from rugby after the Olympics before deciding on his future, and when it comes time to talk Tuitubou hopes Fiji can trump foreign bidders by appealing to the coach on an emotional level.
“We know very well we can’t afford to get Ben Ryan back, but I think he will think otherwise through his passion for Fijian rugby.
“One thing that is not with them (other teams) is the heart of the Fijian player.”
When Ryan linked up with Fiji in 2013, the Fiji Rugby Union sought 300,000 Fijian dollars (US$146,220) from the Fiji Sports Commission to cover not only his salary but also his travel and accommodation.