30 Jan 2020

Sport: Nadolo backs Cotter to take Flying Fijians to next level

2:06 pm on 30 January 2020

Former Fiji winger Nemani Nadolo is confident Vern Cotter is the right man to take the Flying Fijians team to the next level.

Cotter, 58, was announced this week as the new Fiji head coach on a three-year deal and will be in charge of the Flying Fijians when they face Tonga on 4 July.

New Fiji rugby coach, Vern Cotter

New Fiji rugby coach, Vern Cotter Photo: Photosport

Nadolo, who retired from test rugby last year, has played under the former Scotland and Clemont mentor at French side Montpellier since 2017 and said Fiji was lucky to have him.

"This is massive for Pacific rugby. Fiji as an organisation are very lucky to have his services and of someone of his experiences," he said.

"I think it's refreshing for Fiji Rugby to have someone of Vern's calibre and coaching experience being on board, I think it's probably what Fiji lacked."

"He could easily walk into coach any team but Fiji is an exciting team and I've got no doubt he's going to do his best."

A strong start to the season with Montpellier wasn't enough for Nemani Nadolo to earn a Fiji call-up.

Nemani Nadolo joined Montpellier in 2016. Photo: AFP

Sigatoka-born Nadolo, who scored 19 tries in 29 tests, said Cotter was a straight shooter who would get the best out of Fiji's talented squad.

"Just his experience in big games, I think, will be good for the team," he said. "Not saying that coaches before him didn't have it but in my experience with Vern he definitely got the best out of me here in Europe [and] obviously his coaching experience speaks for itself."

"When it comes time to work, you work hard and there's a bit of old-school about him which at first for me was a big shock but the good thing with Vern and his character is he's straight forward with you."

New Fiji head coach Vern Cotter issues instructions at Montpellier.

New Fiji head coach Vern Cotter issues instructions at Montpellier. Photo: AFP

"He's black and white and that's one thing I think Fiji as a squad moving forward probably need. I think we probably got too comfortable with just winning the odd big game."

"He's going to bring that ethic of hard work you know, he's just going to tighten up the screws in the Fiji squad and I think he's going to get the best out of some of the players that are already there."

While the resources available to the Fijian team might not compare to what Cotter has been used to in Scotland and France, Nadolo said the former Crusaders assistant coach will know what he's getting himself in for.

"The exciting talent that he'll have at his disposal, it would be exciting for any coach really and Fiji is just on that brink at the moment where they can play with the big guys but maybe not necessarily for 80 minutes," he said.

Semi Radradra scored two tries and set up three others for Fiji.

Semi Radradra just one of the star names in the Flying Fijians squad. Photo: AFP

"As we all know, the island nations don't have the resources some of the bigger nations [have] but I think he'll adapt," he said. "He'll have a coaching crew that he'll bring with him and they'll make do, and I think it probably goes well with his hard-nose old-school mentality."

"He's a Kiwi man, he's from New Zealand, and you know it may be an opportunity to be close to home but, also too, it's excitement to coach a team that's naturally gifted."

Nadolo's phone has been running hot since the announcement, with a number of current Fiji internationals keen to know what to expect from the new man in charge.

The hulking winger, who turns 32 on Friday, only wishes he was a few years younger.

"I had a cheeky dab at him and said 'mate, if only it was two years ago I'd come back.' He was having a laugh and told me I was too old."

Fiji wing Nemani Nadolo is tackled during the test against Ireland.

Nemani Nadolo admits he would have loved to play under Cotter for Fiji. Photo: AFP

Cotter's deep understanding of the rugby scene in Europe, where so many Fijian players are based, was also a positive and should help ensure they could get their best players on the field, he said.

"Look, if I was still playing or involved with Fiji, I'd definitely be doing everything I can to get back into it and that's the sort of person you sort of want," he said.

"I hung around Montpellier because of Vern and he's that sort of coach that will get that from his players. He's experienced and his records show for themselves."