Hamilton (New Zealand) (AFP)
Fiji rugby players have once again stopped wearing a promised pro-vaccination message on their jerseys, instead displaying their sponsor’s name during the test against New Zealand in Hamilton on Saturday.
Anti-vaccination sentiment is rife in the Pacific island nation, which is battling a 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 problem had been solved for the second test.
“I am delighted to confirm that after extensive and productive discussions with the Flying Fijian players, the team has agreed to wear the game jersey with the message ‘Vaccinate Fiji’ against the All Blacks,” said O’Connor. during the week.
“As a result of these discussions, the team opted for the ‘Vaccinate Fiji’ jersey, with an additional ‘It’s your choice’ message next to it. ”
However, coach Vern Cotter said it was a “complex” issue within the squad and players believed the message had already been delivered without having it on the shirts.
“It was all about awareness” of the vaccination message, he said following the 60-13 loss to the All Blacks.
“I think that one week a day, everyone is talking about it (the vaccination message), it was disseminated quite well and I think the awareness has worked.
“Everyone was thinking ‘well, maybe the job has been done, we’re just going to hand over the main sponsor and move on,’ and that’s actually what happened. ”
Fiji had not recorded any community cases of Covid-19 for a year until April, when a quarantine breach triggered the highly contagious Delta variant, and the country now has one of the lowest infection rates highest in the world.
More than 16,400 cases and 85 deaths have been recorded among a population of 930,000 inhabitants.
© 2021 AFP