Opinion: World Rugby and the r...

Rugby

Opinion: World Rugby and the rugby world have failed the Pacific Islands


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The Pacific Island nations have been consistently failed by the rugby fraternity and the recent proposals for a World League are a result of years of neglect by Tier 1 Nations and the administrators of the game.

Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands are regularly cast in the "they bring flavour to the tournament" bracket when the World Cup rolls around every four years. They may even spring a surprise - think then Western Samoa's remarkable 16-13 win over Wales in 1991 or Fiji's 38-34 win over the same victims in 2007 -  but, by and large, they are an after-thought on the global stage.

Their best players are hoovered up by Super Rugby franchises and mega-rich European clubs - often with an unwritten proviso that they don't play for their countries during the international windows. And, who is to judge any player who wishes to take his family out of relative poverty and forsake their national team for the good of their loved ones?

The 'original eight' power-brokers in the game: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa have held an almost iron grip on the administration of the game - how long did it take for Italy and Argentina to be granted entry into the 6 Nations and Rugby Championship respectively when both were worthy of earlier consideration?

Even in one-off test matches, the Tier 1 teams have sparingly toured the Pacific Islands. Rather Gallingly, New Zealand have played just once on Samoan soil, in 2015 - despite the relatively close geographical proximity in rugby terms. The game even cost the host nation almost £400,000 after all the money was counted.

The British and Irish Lions, for all their talk about upholding 'the traditions of the game' have never suggested a meeting with any of the Pacific Islands, even in a neutral venue in Australia or New Zealand. The windfall from such a match could do wonders for the funding of the game in the Pacific.

The proposed World League has come in for huge criticism from Johnny Sexton, Owen Farrell and Kieran Read but their concerns have mainly focused on the number of consecutive top level test matches the players will be expected to play.

However, Ronan O'Gara revealed on Friday's #OTBAM that there is consternation in New Zealand that the Pacific Island nations could be locked out of the proposed format for up to 10 years.

Former Argentina scrum-half and vice-president of World Rugby, Augustin Pichot, appears to be the voice of reason in the current administration. Having watched his home nation's struggles to get a seat at the big boy table - he is probably the only one in the organisation who can relate to the frustration of the Pacific Island nations. He reacted angrily to the leaked proposals and said he wouldn't sign off on them in their current format.

Regardless, the rugby world should be united in their approach to the future of the game which should include an equitable stake for rugby in the Pacific Islands.

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Augustin Pichot Australia England Fiji Ireland New Zealand Pacific Islands Rugby Rugby Union Samoa Sotland South Africa Tonga Wales World League World Rugby

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