Pacific Islands rugby chiefs have reacted angrily to a proposed World Rugby League tournament that would lock out the three Pacific champions – Tonga, Fiji and Samoa.
The 12-team World League would sign up teams from the Rugby Championship and Six Nations as well as the United States and Japan for a dozen years.
Island teams would be effectively barred from participating.
There are reports that an unnamed broadcaster has offered to back the concept in a deal that would provide up to NZ$14m for each nation every season.
Under the new arrangement the 12 teams would meet once a year, with finals conducted at the end of each year.
Aayden Clarke, chief executive officer of Pacific Rugby Players, said that during discussions with other heads of rugby in the Pacific, one of them described the World League as meaning “the death of Pacific Island Rugby.”
He told New Zealand media players would be forced to opt to play in overseas teams because it would give them more opportunities than playing for their home side.
“There are 18-year-old young Samoans, Tongans and Fijians now who will now be looking at ‘who do I make myself eligible for’ because if I play for my home country I will never play in the bright lights of Twickenham and possibly will never have the opportunity to play the All Blacks or Australia,” Clarke said.
“We’re going to see players withdrawing from test rugby and signing three to four year deals with French or UK clubs, quite happy to step down from international rugby because, no disrespect, but they don’t value test matches against the likes of Spain, Russia and Uruguay as high as playing against top nations.”
And Samoan captain Chris Vui told the New Zealand Herald: “For countries in this bracket and for Pacific Islanders in particular, our biggest issue has always been the ‘club versus country’ factor.
“We feel that a 12-year deal is not workable, particularly when it presents no hope of advancement during that period.
“This will have a dangerous knock-on effect of luring senior players away from their countries and more towards the clubs, which is the exact opposite of what we’re all trying to achieve.”
Leading rugby players from around the world have condemned the idea of a World League and raised concerns that under the new arrangement there would be no real opportunity for tier two teams like Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, to progress.
The New Zealand Herald said the new deal meant that the Pacific Island teams were effectively being told to “to give up – they will never have a seat at the top table.”
According to the Pacific Rugby Players website, hundreds of Pacific Islanders play the game across the globe.
The main points
- Pacific Islands rugby chiefs have reacted angrily to a proposed World Rugby League tournament that would lock out the three Pacific champions – Tonga, Fiji and Samoa.
- The 12-team World League would sign up teams from the Rugby Championship and Six Nations as well as the United States and Japan for a dozen years.
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