Updated: 02/07/2014 11:35 | By Agence France-Presse

Fiji Rugby says sponsor deal a 'game-changer'

The cash-strapped Fiji Rugby Union on Friday hailed a new FJ$40 million (US$21.3 million) sponsorship deal as a "game changer" for the sport in the Pacific nation.

Fiji Rugby says sponsor deal a 'game-changer'

Fiji's Samisoni Viriviri carries the ball against Scotland during the US Rugby Sevens tournament in Las Vegas January 24, 2014 - by Isaac Brekken

FRU chairman Filimoni Waqabaca said the five-year agreement gave the organisation certainty after a troubled period when it had to sack the national team's coach to save money and had financial aid from the International Rugby Board (IRB) suspended.

"This deal will ease some of the burden financially on Rugby House," he said. "That's why we are so happy to secure a sponsorship which reflects the true value of our products... I think this may be a game-changing moment for Fiji rugby."

The FJ$8.0 million a year sponsorship will be provided by a consortium of five companies including Vodafone Fiji and Fiji Airways. It includes sponsorship of both the 15s and Sevens sides.

The FRU sacked 15s coach Inoke Male last month as part of a restructure it said was forced upon it by "financial constraints".

The move came just weeks after the IRB said it had suspended all direct financial aid to the FRU following a review that raised concerns over the administration and governance of the union.

The FRU also admitted last month that it was struggling to pay the salary of high-profile Sevens coach Ben Ryan, forcing the Briton to work voluntarily during his first three months in the job.

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