Former All Black wing and former Manu Samoa coach, Sir Bryan Williams, says not being involved in Super Rugby has left the Pacific Island unions “running on the smell of oily fumes”.
New Zealand Rugby is looking over a government commissioned feasibility study on the establishment of a Pacific Islands Super Rugby team from 2020..
The report has been given to NZR, though they say as it was commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and shared with them confidentially, they can’t discuss it.
Newshub reports the study cost the taxpayer $80,000 and under the plan the team would be based in Suva and play some home games in Samoa, Tonga, Auckland and Sydney.
Sir Bryan, of proud Samoan descent, believes if they team goes ahead, Pacific rugby will rise.
“One of the things that’s been to the real detriment of Pacific Island rugby is the fact they’re not involved in Super Rugby. As a result they can’t generate the sort of income all the other Super teams can. It’s sort of hand to mouth for those unions at the moment. If the team comes to pass it will be a significant boost for Pacific Island rugby.”
Sir Bryan claims Pacific Super team would directly result in stronger national teams for Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.
He said the Samoa in particular have suffered by not having a Super Rugby presence and says all the Island nations would benefit from a combined team.
“We’ve seen the demise Samoan rugby over the last five or so years, they’ve gone from seventh in the world to 16th. That’s not a good sign. It ( a Pacific Super team) would give the players the right sort of competition week to week and generate the kind of income that will allow them (Tonga, Fiji and Samoa) to compete at the very top level. They (Pacific unions) get some grants from World Rugby, but not enough to compete at the top level of international rugby.”
Sir Bryan also believes regular Super Rugby matches in the Pacific Islands would be “huge”. He said it’s hard to quantify what it would mean to young Pacifica fans watching their idols take on All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks in their own back yards.
“It would mean so much. The Pacific Islanders love their rugby anyway and to see that sort of level of rugby on a week to week basis in the Islands would just be huge for the young fans and their hopes and dreams for the future.”