Fijian Drua chart a course for a home quarterfinal in 2024

Drua huddle

While going down 10-34 to the Blues on Saturday in Whangārei, Byrne said they were on track to securing a home game in the top eight this year.

Byrne was left to rue the lightning start the side made with 23 phases in the opening burst, only to end when the ball was dropped on the line. They followed that by giving away eight penalties in the next 25 minutes.

"That's something we need to fix. We carried well; we had the momentum going into this first part of the game, and it would have been nice to get across the line after starting the game like that.

"I thought we came back in the second half. Some of the tackles started to stick and we carried the ball a bit better. We got back into the game and then for some reason we lost a few players with cramps."

Byrne said winning on the road would be a crucial step for the side; it was vital if they would make the top eight.

"We have got to win four away games. Each year we've taken a step forward and this year we're aiming for a home quarter, so far away wins is the challenge."

Being down 3-29 at halftime made it a tough challenge for the side, even with the second-half advantage of the wind at their backs.

"It's hard to chase the game against the Blues. They're a good side and quite rightly, they're one of the favourites for the tournament this year and you can't go chasing them on their home ground."

Into his third year with the side, Byrne said they were growing into Super Rugby Pacific enormously.

"When you think back into our first year and where we started around their conditioning and some of their game awareness, and playing 15s rugby professionally. That first year, they did a tremendous job just battling away. We got touched up a couple of times, and then last year, we let ourselves down on a couple of occasions.

"But we came back and got into the quarterfinals, so we made some progress. We've certainly made progress over the preseason with some of our work.

"Now we need to turn that sort of progress we're making back in Fiji onto the field."

A clear career path had emerged in Fiji for players. Four of their Academy development players are in the Drua squad, and a few more could push their way in.

"I'd say over the course of the two to three years, we're going to push about 10 young players into our squad."

The Drua were working with Fiji Rugby and their high-performance units to keep players on the islands.

"That's the challenge, but we're seeing some good young players being developed know, so it augurs well for the future."

With eight or nine Drua players making the Fiji World Cup starting XV alongside the European-based players, it showed they were narrowing the gap between the exiled and home players.

"That's what we encourage and is part of our pathway. We were happy last year that we got players into the World Cup squad, but we've got to perform well for the Drua first, and then push into the next level.


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