Until now, the former All Blacks-funded Kanaloa Hawaii venture has attracted all the attention as the sole known Pasifika side set to be considered for inclusion in next year’s Super Rugby replacement. Reports out of New Zealand suggest that another side Pacific heritage team has also expressed interest in joining an NZ competition, however.
As the war of words rages on between New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia, the chances of the two nations teaming up to create a new competition to take the place of Super Rugby seem less and less likely by the day. Both unions have expressed interest in including a Pacific Island team alongside their local sides, however, with a tug-of-wear appearing to break out over Kanaloa Hawaii.
According to the New Zealand Herald, however, a second Auckland-based side have also put in a bid to play alongside the likes of the Blues and the Crusaders – and some heavyweights of the game are putting their weight behind the proposal.
The Herald has suggested that during the process of trying to arrange a match between the All Blacks and a Pacific XV, a potential long-term option has also arisen, which would see a Pacific side join the Kiwi franchises in a proposed 8-10 team competition.
The New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) is allegedly facilitating discussions between the team of stakeholders interested in setting up a Pacific franchise in NZ, including the likes of former All Blacks Eroni Clarke and Michael Jones.
NZRPA boss Rob Nichol confirmed the option was currently being discussed but declined to give any further details.
While the venture run by the Kanaloa Hawaii consortium would likely operate independently but still be governed by the NZR’s tournament rules, this rumoured franchise would be more closely tied to New Zealand Rugby.
Eroni Clarke was recently appointed NZR’s first-ever Pasifika engagement manager and has previously spoken about his desire to improve Pacific representation throughout the game.
“We’ve long had a desire to have a Pacific-led team in Super Rugby,” he told the Herald prior to the latest revelations. “The wonderful thing is we are drawing closer to the dream coming to fruition.
“It really does put a stake in the ground for Pacific people. It aligns with a lot of where New Zealand Rugby is but also global rugby and the recognition of Pacific contribution to the game.
“We’re much closer to it now than we’ve ever been before. It would open doors, provide opportunities, for the aspirations of the Pacific community to normalise areas that we haven’t been prevalent in before. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
While discussions between NZR and RA have stalled due ostensibly to the Australian board’s perception that their NZ equivalents have shown them minimal respect during the negotiation period, there are still hopes that a trans-Tasman competition could emerge from the rubble of Super Rugby.
NZR have effectively signalled that they would be willing to consider including up to four Australia sides in their proposed competition – but fewer would be more desirable. RA, on the other hand, are set on all five of their sides being maintained for the future.
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