Pakistan’s Irish coach aims high


Pakistan’s new rugby coach Justin Fitzpatrick said Monday his players had the passion to rise quickly in the game as the team prepares to take on arch-rivals India in a regional competition. “I am new in the job,” Fitzpatrick told AFP on the sidelines of a training session. “The boys are athletic and I hope that the team will improve by leaps and bounds.”
Rugby is a new sport in Pakistan, which competes internationally at a regional level. At the end of the month the team are off to Kuala Lumpur for an Asian Division III event, kicking off their campaign against India.
Guam play Indonesia in the other half of the draw, with the winners going head to head for a place in Asia’s Division II.
Fitzpatrick, 38, earned 26 caps for Ireland, including at the 1999 World Cup, and joined as coach earlier this month.. “Besides their good fitness level, the Pakistani players have the right kind of passion for rugby and I am quite hopeful that I will be able to make further improvement in the team,” he said.
He downplayed security fears in Pakistan, which is on the frontline of the US-led war against Al-Qaeda and which suffers from a Taliban insurgency in the northwest.
“I am from Belfast, so this is something which I am not afraid of. The Pakistan offer excited me so I am here and enjoying my stint,” he said.
Top-level international sport has been suspended in Pakistan since 2009, when gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, killing eight people and injuring seven visiting players and their assistant coach.