Half a dozen competing bids have signalled their interest in becoming the first Pacific Super Rugby franchise.
New Zealand Rugby wants to add a Pasifika team to the competition from 2021 and is currently considering expressions of interest from a range of bids.
Kanaloa Hawaii and the Asia Pacific Dragons previously voiced their desire to join the Super Rugby competition, while Moana Pasifika is the latest group to go public.
Pacific Rugby Players CEO Aayden Clarke said they have consulted with half a dozen prospective groups.
“From our perspective we just want a quality organisation to grab this opportunity,” he said.
“There’s now been an appetite from the competition owners – at the moment it looks like that will be New Zealand – to have a Pacific Island Super Rugby team involved.
“We’ve said right from the start that we just want there to be meaningful outcomes and involvement from the three nations: Fiji, Tonga and Samoa and whomever that may be that leads out this franchise that the benefits of this team, in terms of performance pathway, really flow back into the islands.”
The Kanaloa Hawaii group, which is backed by several former All Blacks, will no longer compete in the Major League Rugby next season but remain in the Super Rugby mix, while the Asian Pacific Dragons have submitted a bid to join in 2022.
Aayden Clarke said there was definitely enough Pacific rugby talent across the region but it won’t be easy to build a competitive team in just a few months.
“That’s a really short runway to be able to pull together a high-performing squad, build the roster of players, contracting – all of that,” he said.
“I know that some of the organisations don’t believe that is possible and are more inclined to really put their work into trying to be a serious option for a longer term but there are some others, who are New Zealand based, who think the can pull that together.”
Pacific Rugby Players have been in regular dialogue with the Moana Pasifika bid for a number of months.
Stuff reported the bid intended to play its home games at Mt Smart Stadium in South Auckland and had the backing of All Black legend Sir Bryan Williams, as well as a group including the former Attorney-Generals of Samoa, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, and Tonga, Aminiasi Kefu.