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Just eight places remaining in 2022 Moana Pasifika squad

By Sam Smith

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Moana Pasifika have revealed they have only eight spots left on their roster for their inaugural campaign in next year’s Super Rugby Pacific.

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Since being granted an unconditional licence to join the competition in July, Moana Pasifika have recruited heavily ahead of its debut campaign with franchise expected to complete 30 of its 38 squad signings by the end of the week.

“We’ve got 30 players that we’ll be signing on the dotted line this week, so that leaves eight further spots to be filled,” Moana Pasifika interim chief executive Pelenato Sakalia said, as per RNZ.

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“We’ll take our time on filling those eight additional spots, but I’d like to think we’ve broken the back of the squad, [because] 30 out of 38 is quite a significant chunk.”

Sakalia added that a number of stand-by players have been identified, and said the contracted players will be announced in due course.

The Moana Pasifika squad will then assemble for its pre-season campaign in mid-December, which has been delayed from its initial November kick-off date as a result of the extension of the NPC season due to New Zealand’s Covid-19 outbreak.

“Essentially from a Moana Pasifika, from an assembling point of view, you lose between four to six weeks, but that’s Covid, that’s just the way it is and you’ve got to adjust,” said Sakalia.

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“The commencement of the Super Rugby Pacific date doesn’t change, but our window for pre-season does shrink considerably.”

Meanwhile, Super Rugby Pacific’s other expansion franchise, the Fijian Drua, are also expected to name its players and coaching staff in the coming weeks, with most of their personnel to be based out of Fiji.

However, Fijian Drua interim chief executive Brian Thorburn said that the delayed confirmation of the franchise’s involvement in Super Rugby Pacific hindered the side’s ability to sign marquee players from abroad.

As a result, much of the squad is expected to be made up of locally-based talent, although Thorburn said there will be instances where foreigners will be called on to fill roster spots, despite the Drua’s aim having a whole squad of Fijian-eligible players.

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“We’ll have to contract the odd what we call a joker, where somebody whose not otherwise eligible to play for Fiji, might have to fill an area of weakness for us,” he said, as per RNZ.

“Our aspiration is for every player that plays for the Drua to be eligible for national duty, but in some cases we’ll have to compromise that for the first year or two.”

The Drua, who will be based out of Australia during its first season in Super Rugby Pacific, will begin their pre-season campaign in mid-October after undergoing a two-week quarantine in their adopted home nation.

“We are going to be marching into a quarantine camp in Australia in the middle of October, we’ll put them through a couple of weeks of quarantine and then we’ll have a three-month solid hit out with them to prepare physically, mentally, tactically, ready to hit the park come February.”

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Just eight places remaining in 2022 Moana Pasifika squad

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