Mike Umaga, the 13-cap former Samoa centre, believes a British and Irish Lions type tour by a combined Pacific Islands team could be an excellent solution to help Tonga, Samoa and Fiji boost their limited Test rugby revenue streams.
As it stands currently, it’s rare enough for the Islands countries to ever go head to head against the best in the world in November or June – and even if they do they don’t get any share of the gate as a team like England will keep all the revenue generated from a game at Twickenham.
It’s an inequitable situation and Umaga, a member of the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare organisation supports professional and semi-professional players of Pacific Island heritage in the UK and Europe, was in agreement with the ex-Wales midfielder that the revival of the Pacific Islands team could be a winner financially.
A combined Pacific Islands team embarked on three tours in the early noughties but reviving that concept and marketing it in the way that the British and Irish Lions tours are now promoted was seen as a possible way out of the current malaise.
“It’s the equivalent to the British Lions, every four years they come together as a collective and tour. I think it’s brilliant,” said Jamie Roberts, the ex-Wales midfielder during a co-hosting appearance on RugbyPass Offload which had Umaga on as a guest.
Episode 9 – Game Changers
We discuss the tense Wales vs England match from the weekend. Jamie reveals just how ruthless Shaun Edwards is! We speak to Mike Umaga on his son Jacob Umaga, and @OceansApartFilm !
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 2, 2020
“That tour could be a revenue maker for the islands. You would get a lot of traction out of that,” said Umaga. “That team, there was a lot of interest and definitely I’d love to see that again. My brother (Tana of the All Blacks) was playing at the same time. He said it was the toughest series that he had played in.
“It was also the start of some really good careers for young Pacific Islanders. Sitiveni Sivivatu played for the All Blacks off that. Sione Lauaki as well. It definitely puts them in the shop window.”
The Pacific Islanders toured New Zealand and Australia in 2004, the Celtic Nations in 2006 and Europe in 2008 before the alliance was ended in 2009 by Samoa who claimed the merger team hadn’t produced the financial benefits they were hoping for. A better run alliance, though, could be more prosperous.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 3, 2020
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