Fiji rugby players again fail to display 'vaccinate' message

·2 min read
Fiji wore their sponsor's name on their jerseys for the game against New Zealand

Fiji's rugby players have again pulled out of wearing a promised pro-vaccination message on their jerseys, instead displaying their sponsor's name in the Test against New Zealand in Hamilton on Saturday.

Anti-vaccination sentiment is widespread in the Pacific island nation, which is battling a runaway Covid-19 outbreak.

After player opposition blocked plans to have "Vaccinate Fiji" on their jerseys in the first Test last week, Fiji Rugby Union boss John O'Connor said the issue had been resolved for the second Test.

"I'm pleased to confirm that after comprehensive and productive discussions with the Flying Fijian players, the team has agreed to wear the playing jersey featuring the 'Vaccinate Fiji' message against the All Blacks," O'Connor said during the week.

"Following these discussions, the squad has settled on the 'Vaccinate Fiji' jersey, with an additional 'It's Your Choice' message alongside it."

However, coach Vern Cotter said it was a "complex" issue within the team and players believed the message had already been put across without having it on the jerseys.

"It was all about awareness" of the vaccination message, he said following the 60-13 loss to the All Blacks.

"I think a week of every day everyone talking about it (the vaccination message), it got aired quite well and I think the awareness worked.

"Everyone thought 'well perhaps the job's been done, we'll just put the major sponsor back on and move on with that,' and that's effectively what happened."

Fiji had recorded no community Covid-19 cases for a year until April when a quarantine breach unleashed the highly contagious Delta variant, and the country now has one of the highest infection rates in the world.

More than 16,400 cases and 85 deaths have been recorded among a population of 930,000.

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