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Wellington Rugby appoint Head Coaches for Lions and Pride

The Wellington Rugby Football Union (WRFU) are thrilled to announce the appointment of Alando Soakai and reappointment of Fusi Feaunati, as the new Wellington Lions Head Coach, and Wellington Pride Head Coach, for the upcoming seasons.

Soakai, who was an Assistant Coach with the Lions in 2023, will take charge of the Lions for the next two seasons (2024-2025). He fills the role that was vacated by Tamati Ellison after the Lions 2023 Bunnings Warehouse NPC campaign.

This will be the former Highlanders loose forward’s first gig as a Head Coach at this level. He previously spent 12 years in Japan playing and coaching (Forwards Assistant Coach) with the Kubota Spears.

They went onto to win the Japanese League One competition in 2022/23, which was the first in the club’s history.

Soakai said he is excited about the challenge that lies ahead.

“I am both excited and grateful to lead the Wellington Lions for the next two seasons. It is a role which comes with great responsibility, and will no doubt be a challenge I look forward to.

“What will drive me is the ability to keep growing our rugby, but more importantly our people (players and staff). Our people have put a lot of effort and care into our environment, which is an area I take pride in, and will continue to grow. Credit to past coaches and leaders who have laid the foundation.  

“Identifying future Lions and developing them from within the province is also vital for our continued success. I look forward to connecting with players, coaches, and clubs throughout the next two seasons.”

Soakai will begin his role on 1 May.

The Pride will continue to have an experienced campaigner for 2024 in Feaunati, who remains in the role after leading the Pride in 2023.

Feaunati has been involved in coaching for 22 years and has added the Pride Head Coach role to his long list of credentials which includes Hurricanes Poua Assistant Coach, Head Coach of the Manawatu Cyclones, and Tech Advisor for the Washington DC Potomac Athletic Club.

Feaunati said he was thrilled to be reappointed as Pride Head Coach and hopes to “awaken the sleeping giant of New Zealand Women’s Rugby”.

“I am excited and privileged to be given the role of leading the Pride in 2024. We are in the middle of finalising our coaching group for next season, and currently reviewing how we can better support our Pride programme in 2024.

“The team and I are very excited to learn and grow as coaches but to also support and commit to the pathways for our women and girls in school and club rugby.”

Feaunati, who is also Wellington Rugby’s Women’s High-Performance Manager, will continue his role with the Pride in July.

WRFU CEO Tony Giles said: “We are extremely excited by the mix of top provincial coaching talent and high-quality management personnel we have supporting the playing group in 2024.

“We have worked closely with both Alando and Fusi in recent months and are excited to see what these groups can achieve in the coming season.”