NRC cancellation a blow for Fijian Drua rugby team

The coach of the Fijian Drua says he is disappointed his team won't have an opportunity to regain the Australian National Rugby Championship title.

The 2020 NRC competition has been cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Drua made the semi-finals in their debut campaign in 2017 before winning their maiden championship in 2018.

Last year they made the semi-finals despite missing a number of their top players.

Senirusi Seruvakula said he wasn't surprised by the cancellation but was hoping other options would be available.

"Our aim was to win it again and I've got all the players that I wanted but it was just disappointing the NRC won't happen," he said.

"I was expecting this would be the case but if there was another way to make it happen, if we could have been based in Australia for the whole season, but this is the decision and we just have to go with it."

"A lot of the overseas players, they are in the country at the moment. If the NRC was happening then surely they would be coming in and would be keen to join the squad," he added.

Senirusi Seruvakula also coaches the Fijian Latui in the Global Rapid Rugby competition, which was cancelled in April.

He said the same 42 players were contracted to both squads and while some had jobs to fall back on, at least half of the team had lost their main source of income.

"It's been really tough back home because as soon as the competitions are cancelled their contracts are terminated straight away," he said.

"It's been really hard. People are trying hard to get another job somewhere to feed their family because some of these guys, their main source of income is in rugby, so it's been very tough."

While the Australian-based competitions are not happening this year, one silver lining is that Fijian players will have the opportunity to play in their local tournaments, including the Skipper Cup.

Pacific Rugby Players have been working with the Fiji Rugby Union and the local players over the past few months.

CEO Aayden Clarke says effectively the focus is on ensuring the players can return to competitive rugby locally ahead of a rescheduled Pacific Nations Cup later this year.

Senirusi Seruvakula said it will be one of the strongest domestic competitions the country has ever seen.

"It will be...especially with the Sevens squad, the international team, they will be taking part in all their provincial sides because there is no sevens at all this year so they will be taking part in all the [domestic] tournaments."

"We're waiting for the announcement from the Prime Minister next week on Friday to lift the curfews and competitions to start again so we are all crossing our fingers because our domestic competition will start straight away."

Until then, he said players have been keeping up with training schedules monitored by coaching staff.

"I want to see that they're fit and they're ready to go," explained the veteran coach.

"I've been sending training [schedules] each day to all the extended squads of the Latui and Drua and they've been doing their training and videos and they've been sending that [to me] everyday so I know who's doing what and in the weekend I go around and visit them at their homes."

He said Fijians are praying for the return of sport again.

"People have just been bored when rugby is not happening, and this is the first time ever. Everyone is just praying and fingers crossed, they want to get back to normal life and are waiting on the announcement next week. Everyone can't wait for rugby to start again."