World Rugby confirms £1.2million annual financial package to fast-track Pacific Islands entry into Super Rugby
World Rugby have confirmed a package of financial and administrative support to help facilitate two Pacific Islands teams joining Super Rugby from 2022. The deal – worth £1.2million annually for an initial three-year period – has been agreed to support the two franchises, Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika. Both franchises will also be supported by their respective unions and private equity funding.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The game-changing potential of the executive committee’s decision to support Pacific Islands Super Rugby franchises should not be underestimated. From a strategic perspective, it provides the best possible platform and pathway for the Islands to reach their potential.
“On a human level, this is absolutely the right thing to do. It is great for the players, allowing them to make the choice for the first time to be part of a local professional team at the top level of elite club rugby.
“While recognising that there are still steps to complete, I would like to thank everyone involved, including the unions as well as New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia, for their full commitment to this project which is great for rugby.”
World Rugby high performance general manager Peter Horne added: “We are committed to increasing sustainable global competitiveness in both the men’s and women’s game. By supporting these Super Rugby franchises, we are completing a meaningful competition pathway from local to national team level for Pacific Island players. This is entirely in line with the approach we have been taking in other strategically important markets such as North and South America, Japan and Europe.”
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Fiji Rugby Union chief executive John O’Connor said: “We are excited about the possibility of the Fijian Drua joining the Super Rugby competition in 2022. It will be a dream come true for not only Fiji rugby but for Pacific Island rugby. We have been urging for such an opportunity and it is almost in our grip.
“This is the missing piece to our rugby puzzle in the Pacific Islands and more importantly to Fiji rugby. Being included in Super Rugby completes our elite pathway and will allow our best players to have the opportunity to play professional rugby right here at home.
“We are not over the line yet. However, we are working very hard to meet all the requirements set by NZR, including strict financial diligence requirements by the end of March to satisfy the NZR board that we will be able to field a strong team on the field and a sustainable and profitable franchise.”
Lakapi Samoa chief executive Vincent Fepuleai added: “This is a huge step forward for Lakapi Samoa and for Pacific Islands rugby. We have been reliant on our overseas-based players representing Manu Samoa, but the Moana Pasifika provides the missing link and pathway for our players to stay in the southern hemisphere. We are very grateful to World Rugby for this opportunity.”
Tonga Rugby CEO Peter Harding said: “The renewed HP investment from World Rugby is welcome news for Tonga rugby. The investment is key to nourishing the pathways to the ‘Ikale Tahi. The combination of this investment and the commitment of World Rugby to assist the player development pathways for the new Moana Pasifika franchise shows that the partnership between the three organisations will make a healthy contribution toward ensuring that rugby in the Pacific is strong and stable into the future.”
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