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Rugby World Cup: Flying Fijians driven by the Bible's values, says coach

by Will Hobbs
Naca 2.png - Banner image
World Rugby

The Fijian rugby union team's Head of Athletic Performance has told a press conference that the team's high performance strategy is based on "principles that are all in the Bible."

Naca Cawanibuka's comments come during the Rugby World Cup in France, where Fiji have all but confirmed their place in only their second ever Quarter Final, after a first victory over Australia in 69 years.

After the famous win, Fiji centre and Man of the Match Josua Tuisova used a post match interview to "first of all give back the glory and the honour to the Lord God Almighty for giving us the strength and the power." He also thanked "family at home for their prayers and support".

Cawanibuka, who helped coach the Fijian sevens team to back-to-back Olympic golds in Rio 2016 and Tokyo in 2021, has suggested that while most teams practice sports psychology, the Flying Fijians draw "big power" through "faith", "the Bible" and "belief in a god".

"When you look at high performance sport, it's all the principles and the values that are outlined in the Bible. When you talk about honesty, talk about diligence, talk about persistence, resilience, hard work, rebound ability, you know, having mental focus, having team unity. And it's a brotherhood when love comes in."

Cawanibuka, a former high school teacher, has described four pillars that define the team's day to day behaviours, all of which he says are "biblically based". They are honesty, discipline, consistency and enjoyment.

"What we've done with a lot of messaging is to align the messages from the Bible to specific real behaviours we can see on a daily basis, because (in rugby) we are measured by not what we say but what we do, and we're trying to build this amongst our officiant, brotherhood. And not only that, but they also symbols of modelling to the younger generation."

Cawanibuka's father Alifereti is a former Fiji national coach in volleyball, athletics and rugby sevens. When it comes to the spiritual and psychological side of coaching the rugby team, he describes it as applying Biblical lessons, that have been ingrained in Fijians since childhood, to sporting performance.

"Having honesty amongst you, and strong discipline, all those principles are all in the Bible. And these boys have heard it from a young age, the thing that's been missing is how you actually highlight it so you bring those words to come alive in action. And what we've driven at Drua (Fiji's new club side) and even now hear within the Flying Fijians, is to do what we say, and to live our values to live our principles."

Cawanibuka says the biblical nature of the values that underpin the team's methods marks out their environment, identity and strength from their rivals.

"There's a bigger life off the field where these values and principles become very important. Because it takes you to beyond rugby when you pull off the jersey and hang your boots. And that's something that makes the rugby programme here very special."

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