Fiji in capable hands of a Dromore man

Brian Downey tends to some Fijian players.
Brian Downey tends to some Fijian players.

One Dromore man is getting a closer look at the Rugby World Cup than most after landing the physiotherapist’s job for the Fiji team.

Brian Downey emigrated to Australia in 1987 before coming back to the UK in 2002 and taking up physio roles within club rugby.

He explained how he got the world cup job.

“I worked for three years at Connaght Rugby,” he said.

“The forwards coach there at that time was John McKee. I then worked with him at Cornish Pirates when he became head coach there.

“He contacted me when he was coach of Tonga and I worked with them at the 2011 Churchill Cup before I received a call from him giving me the opportunity to work with Fiji in last year’s Autumn Internationals and the World Cup.”

Fiji have lost their opening two games, 35-11 to England and 28-13 to Australia, but they have impressed neutrals with their strong performances.

Brian said: “The atmosphere on Friday night (September 18) was unbelievable. The noise from more than 80,000 people when you walked out onto the pitch was amazing.

“It’s the biggest crowd I’ve been involved with working in rugby.

“The team have really improved since John has been Head Coach. He’s brought specialist coaches in and got the team together more often.

“We have achieved parity in the forwards and set pieces with tier one nations which is unheard of really for a team like Fiji.”

Brian explained his normal working non-game day.

He said: “We would weigh the players at breakfast at 7am. They would fill out an online form telling us how they slept and how they’re feeling. We have certian parameters and anyone who fell outside these would then be assessed.

“Strapping would then begin before training and we’d inform the coaches who is available. We’d maybe run a rehabilition session for the injured players. Players would be assessed again at lunch, followed by recovery and treatment before afternoon training.

“In the evening, there would be treatments after dinner. So you’re on the go until about 10pm.”

A game day is slightly different. Brian said: “Players would have a lie in depending on kick off times.

“They would have an activation session to get the muscles going and strapping would begin three hours before kick off.

“There are one physio and one doctor pitchside and an off-pitch physio to manage anyone who is subbed off. I’ve been the off-pitch physio so far but we’ll discuss everything before the Wales game.”