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World Rugby to back Super Rugby involvement of two Pacific Island teams

World Rugby to back Super Rugby involvement of two Pacific Island teams
March 26, 2021

World Rugby has advised that it will provide financial support to allow two Pacific-based teams to join Super Rugby in 2022 in what it calls a "historic transformation for Pacific Islands rugby."

The support package, which is pending New Zealand Rugby (NZR) board approval and key conditions being met, would deliver $2.1 million in funding package for an initial three-year period to support two franchises, Fijian Drua, and Moana Pasifika.

The plans, which would provide financial, high performance, and administrative support, would see the two franchises join Super Rugby from 2022, with both clubs also to be supported by their respective unions and private equity funding.

In a statement, World Rugby advised "the decision was made following a detailed financial, performance and commercial feasibility study in partnership with New Zealand Rugby and the respective unions.

"The funding is conditional on these franchises satisfying the necessary financial criteria for entry."

Explaining that the move would be "game-changing", World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont advised "from a strategic perspective, it provides the best-possible platform and pathway for the Islands to reach their potential.

"On a human level, this is absolutely the right thing to do.

"It is great for the players, allowing them to make the choice for the first time to be part of a local professional team at the top level of elite club rugby."

Fiji Rugby Union Chief Executive John O'Connor said the move by World Rugby was one of the most important in the history of the game in his country, advising that the possibility of the Fijian Drua joining the Super Rugby competition in 2022 "will be a dream come true for not only Fiji rugby but for Pacific Island rugby."

O’Connor explained “we have been urging for such an opportunity and it is almost in our grip. This is the missing piece to our rugby puzzle in the Pacific Islands and more importantly to Fiji rugby.

"Being included in Super Rugby completes our elite pathway and will allow our best players to have the opportunity to play professional rugby right here at home."

Cautioning that the Pacific teams were "not over the line yet", O’Connor added “we are working very hard to meet all the requirements set by New Zealand Rugby, including strict financial diligence requirements by the end of March to satisfy the New Zealand Rugby Board that we will be able to field a strong team on the field and a sustainable and profitable franchise."

Lakapi Samoa Chief Executive Vincent Fepuleai called the decision "a huge step forward for Lakapi Samoa and for Pacific Islands rugby.

"We have been reliant on our overseas-based players representing Manu Samoa but the Moana Pasifika provides the missing link and pathway for our players to stay in the southern hemisphere."

Image: The potential introduction of two Pacific Island teams to Super Rugby is being described as a "game-changer". (Supplied: ZoomFiji)

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