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'Most of the players cannot wait' - Fiji 'working hard' to prove Super Rugby viability

By AAP
The Fijian Drua celebrate with the NRC trophy after winning the NRC Grand Final match between Fijian Drua and Queensland Country at Churchill Park. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

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Reuters

Fiji are looking to submit documentation to New Zealand Rugby (NZR) within days to show the viability of adding a team to Super Rugby in 2022.

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Governing body World Rugby have pledged funding to help Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika, a second Pacific islands team comprised of Tonga and Samoan players, join Super Rugby next year, subject to NZR’s sign-off.

“We’re working hard to make sure we can show that we can meet the requirements by the end of the month,” Fiji Rugby Union Chief Executive John O’Connor said.

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Tony Brown interview after the Highlanders loss to the Hurricanes.
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Tony Brown interview after the Highlanders loss to the Hurricanes.

“Then it will be decided if we can have a licence and then we can start to sign players and everything.

“We are currently in the process of tidying some things up.”

Fijian Drua compete in Australia’s National Rugby Championship and won the title in 2018.

Rugby powers Australia and New Zealand have long mulled adding Pacific teams to Super Rugby but doubts about the financial viability stalled momentum.

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O’Connor said NZR and World Rugby had been hugely supportive but the team needed to show it could raise between NZ$8 million ($A7.3 million) and NZ$10 million ($A9.2 million) to meet ongoing costs.

Unlike Moana Pasifika, which is expected to be based in New Zealand due to cost concerns, Fiji’s team would be based in the Pacific island nation and play home games there if the COVID-19 situation at the time allows international travel.

If granted a Super Rugby license, Fiji will have to lure players home from richer rugby markets in Europe and the southern hemisphere if they are be competitive.

O’Connor said news about the team had already stoked interest among them.

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“Most of the players cannot wait for the opportunity,” he said.

“Most of them are interested in coming back but many obviously have contracts that they need to fulfil.”

Fiji has qualified for every Rugby World Cup since 1999 but has not been able to reach the knockout rounds since making the quarter-finals at the 2007 tournament in France.

O’Connor said having a team of top Fijian players competing regularly in Super Rugby could be a “game-changer” in terms of preparing for the 2023 World Cup in France and beyond.

“It would also be good for Super Rugby – to have a team that is not really defensive-focused and prepared to play,” he said.

Reuters

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'Most of the players cannot wait' - Fiji 'working hard' to prove Super Rugby viability

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