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Vunipola wants more support for Pacific Island nations

By Rugby Pod

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Billy Vunipola wants more Tier 1 nations to play Tests in the Pacific Islands and World Rugby to provide more support for infrastructure there.

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Speaking on the Rugby Pod, the England and Saracens number eight said countries like Tonga and Samoa do receive funding but that they need more support to encourage people to stay there and added that he would like to go to Tonga and help in that regard when his playing career is over.

“It’s hard for Tonga, Samoa and Fiji to generate their own money when they don’t have full-blown internationals played there regularly against Tier 1 nations. That would help but the right infrastructure is also needed for people to be able to grow up there and want to stay there,” he said.

“That’s something I’d love to do after rugby, go home and see if I can help out the young kids coming through.

“My dad works with the Tongan Rugby Union and there’s a lot of rubbish that he has to deal with that he could do without.

“It’s very tough for Tonga to come all the way to Europe to play Japan when they could have just gone to Japan but World Rugby dictates that and they can’t really argue.

“They do fund them a lot and pay for their hotels but how do you drum up support when you play Japan in Toulouse.”

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Vunipola says the so-called “player drain” from the Pacific Islands to countries like Australia and New Zealand will never stop, though, as they can’t compete economically.

“I don’t think it’ll ever stop [choosing New Zealand or Australia over Samoa or Tonga] unless we have the same opportunities in Tonga as we do in England and I think that would be impossible with the economy we have back home,” he told the Rugby Pod.

“It’s usually the same for islanders growing up in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji in terms of, like myself, wanting to make a better life for not just yourself but your family.

“There’s a huge contingent of islanders in Australia and New Zealand and the reason they play rugby is to help their families.”

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England are without Vunipola for their autumn internationals this month and the back rower told former team-mate Jim Hamilton and ex-England fly half Andy Goode that he’s aiming to back towards the beginning of 2018, which means he could be in contention for the Six Nations.

He has won 34 caps so far at the age of just 25 and has been vocal about the fact that players are playing too many games nowadays. He says it’s up to others to work out the right number of games for a season but that his recent injury issues were caused by not having enough time to recuperate.

“I’m still a while off. I think I’m trying to get back some time in mid to late January, so I’ve still got a while left to go and it’s pretty tough at the moment training wise,” he said.

“I don’t really have a number [of games that should be played per season] but, from a personal point of view, my injuries came from playing too much and not having sufficient rest to recover.

“I was still hurting from the year when we did the double and I broke down after that season.

“Saracens are great at looking after us but there is always a more important game coming up.”

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Vunipola wants more support for Pacific Island nations

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