Tongan rugby players could be playing alongside traditional rivals Samoa and Fiji if a proposal for a combined Pacific Islands team goes ahead.
The proposed team would compete in the Super Rugby competition.
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign affairs and Trade paid $80,000 for a feasibility study into the proposal.
The plan has gone to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga for consideration.
Chair of the Pacific Players Association chair Tevita Hale Nai Tu’uhoko welcomed the move.
“For so long now that we’ve been in the back seat with Super Rugby, and now it’s about time that we were in charge,” the former Tongan and Ninternational player said.
“Sport is an integral part of the cultures of many Pacific Islands countries and the New Zealand aid programme recognises it can be an effective vehicle for development in the region,” an MFAT spokesperson said.
The spokesperson says MFAT has not committed to supporting start-up costs or operating capital for any possible future team.
Sceptics have argued that the Pacific could not support a combined team in a Super Rugby Franchise.
However, more than a million people live in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, more than New Zealand’s South Island, which supports two Super Rugby franchises.
It is also four times the population of the Australian Capital Territory, home to the Brumbies.
There are also 300,000 New Zealanders and 170,000 Australians of Pacific Island heritage.
Supporters of the idea of a combined Pacific team have suggested that the number of supporters could reach many millions if Papua New Guinea was included.
The main points
- Tongan rugby players could be playing alongside traditional rivals Samoa and Fiji if a proposal for a combined Pacific Islands team goes ahead.
- The proposed team would would compete in the Super Rugby competition.
- The plan has gone to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga for consideration.
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