IRB blasts TRU, suggests it “review decision” not to re-appoint ʻŌtai as national rugby head coach

The International Rugby Board has told the Tongan Rugby Union it “may wish to review its decision” not to re-appoint Mana ʻŌtai as head coach of the kingdom’s national team, ʻIkale Tahi’.

The suggestion comes as the sting in the tail of a strongly worded letter to the TRU from IRB General Manager for Oceania William Glenwright.

Glenwright told TRU interim CEO Fuka Kitekei’aho the Tongan board’s decision breached a strategic investment agreement with the IRB.

He said the IRB was not prepared to invest any more money in any TRU high performance staff development programme

L-R: 'Ä’peli Taione and Mana 'ÅŒtai.
L-R: ‘Ä’peli Taione and Mana ‘ÅŒtai.

until it could be assured it would be properly managed.

“Mana had been profiled and a professional development plan put in place for him by IRB High Performance consultant David Hadfield,” Glenwright said in the letter, which was dated September 12.

“The IRB has invested approximately TOP370,000 (NZ$241,000) in his employment and development”.

Glenwright said the TRU would have to provide a written explanation of why a performance review was not conducted prior to the decision not to renew the head coach was made.

He described the timing of the TRU’s decision as unwise and inappropriate.

Glenwright laid down a strict set of conditions the TRU would have to meet before the international body would consider any further funding. This included strict terms on how a new coach was to be selected.

He said it would not be possible for the TRU to meet all these requirements before the November tour.

“However the IRB does not believe the recruitment process of the best possible coaching team for Rugby World Cup should be compromised on account of the timing of the decision by the TRU Board and as such the TRU may wish to review its decision whilst the recruitment process is undertaken,” Glenwright said.

Headcoach’s response

ʻŌtai was told by letter on August 20 that his contract would not be renewed when it expired on September 3. He has asked for a formal performance review to explain why he was not renewed, but so far without success.

The TRU told ʻŌtai he was not being renewed because Ikale Tahi had slipped from ninth to 13th place in the world rankings during his tenure.

However, ʻŌtai said that when he started as Tonga’s head coach on September 3, 2012, Íkale Tahi was placed 12th..

‘Ōtai said he brought it up to 11th place by the end of November 2012, although it slipped back to number 12 in December 2013.

ʻIkale Tahi had been ranked 13th for two months, but there were still three more tests in November.

ʻŌtai also denied the TRU’s claim that his relationship with senior players in the Tongan national team was not good.

The TRU has not meet with ʻŌtai to formally discuss its decision. He told Kaniva News in August the first time he knew of the board’s decision not to renew his contract was when he received a telephone call from TRU chair ‘Epeli Taione.

In a written response to the TRU, ʻŌtai said: “I ask that a formal review of my performance is carried out with you all at your earliest convenience.

“I will also answer any questions or concerns you might have as there are a lot of perceptions and documented misinformation about relationship issues between me and senior players, Regulation 9, selection issues to name a few.

“I hope this will lead to a new era in your leadership to create, nurture and sustain a more professional and transparent working environment where we put aside our differences and come together to pass on that experience and feelings to the athletes that are entrusted to us.”

IRB warning

The IRB has expressed serious concern about the TRU’s plan to recruit a new head coach.

Glenwright said the recruitment process for a new head coach for the national team had to be clear and transparent. The position had to be advertised internationally, with a clear job description and a proper shortlisting process.

The selection panel had to be approved by the IRB.

In his letter, Glenwright said some of the members of the selection panel proposed by the TRU were related to some of the applications and this was a clear conflict of interest.

The proposed number of panelists was a concern and that a maximum of three people should be considered.

Most of the panelists did not have experience of the “Modern Game or coaching practices required to assess applicants,” he said.

“Some of the identified coaches are currently contracted to other organizations and we query their availability for the November tour in the meantime.”

In any case, Glenwright has told TRU it must sign the Strategic Investment agreement and meet all the requirements of the IRB, including providing a full explanation of its decision, before the international body would consider any more funding.

KitekeiÊ»aho and Taione did not respond to Kaniva’s request for comments.

The main points

  • The International Rugby Board has told the Tongan Rugby Union it may want to review its decision not to re-appoint Mana ʻŌtai as head coach of the kingdom’s national team, Ê»Ikale Tahi’.
  • The suggestion comes as the sting in the tail of a strongly worded letter to the TRU from the IRB.
  • The Tongan board’s decision breached a strategic investment agreement with the international body, the letter said.
  • The IRB laid down a strict set of conditions the TRU would have to meet before the international body would consider any further funding. This included strict terms on how a new coach was to be selected.

For more information

International Rugby Board

IRB national rugby team rankings

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news