Fiji eyes Six Nations as controversial chairman departs
NEWS: The Fiji Rugby Union announced controversial chairman Francis Kean’s departure on Thursday and also revealed the Pacific islanders were hoping to join Europe’s Six Nations competition.
Kean, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2007, stood down from the World Rugby Council in April after being accused of “rampant homophobia” in a media reports.
Britain’s Sunday Times said there were recordings of him making offensive remarks while in charge of Fiji’s prison service, while the Australian Broadcasting Corporation alleged he ordered mistreatment of inmates and warders.
At the time, World Rugby launched an investigation and the governing body’s chairman Bill Beaumont pledged to introduce a “fit and proper person” test as part of his successful re-election campaign.
Former Flying Fijians coach John McKee also accused Kean of interfering in the FRU’s development programmes to force top young talent to join the prison warders rugby team.
Kean was appointed to the role by Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who is his brother-in-law and the FRU president.
According to Amnesty International, he was convicted of manslaughter after attending a wedding reception in Suva in December 2006 and beating a guest to death after becoming involved in an altercation.
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When it announced Kean was leaving the World Rugby Council in April, the FRU did not directly address the allegations, instead accusing critics on social media of trying to undermine its achievements.
On Thursday, FRU chief executive John O’Connor said Kean’s five-year term had expired and he would “rotate out” of the position in line with the organisation’s constitution.
O’Connor praised Kean for turning around the FRU’s finances and credited him with lifting the organisation from “the swamp of mediocrity” that preceded his appointment in 2015.
“We are on the verge of joining the Six Nations rugby competition and have Super Rugby New Zealand and Australia knocking on our doors, great opportunities for Fiji Rugby which we could only dream of in the past,” O’Connor said.
The FRU declined to provide further details of its Six Nations ambitions, but reports in Europe this month said organisers were considering an eight-team mini-tournament to supplement its coronavirus-hit season.
The extra teams will reportedly be Fiji and either Georgia or Japan.
World Rugby on Wednesday outlined a plan to complete this year’s suspended Six Nations in October, then have the competition regulars and “invited teams hosted in Europe” play from November 14 to December 5.
It did not name the invited teams but Fiji, which has a host of players already in Europe signed with top clubs, appears a likely candidate.