A new plan to end the drain of talent from the Pacific Islands is being worked on, reports the Daily Telegraph. The plan would see the establishment of a new Super Rugby franchise in Fiji, based in a new 20,000 seat stadium just outside Nadi, which could reportedly be up and running by 2018.
The plan is being put in to place to prevent a continuation of the worrying trend seeing talented rugby players from the Pacific Islands moving to bigger rugby playing nations and playing club rugby and international rugby for these teams. Currently, 19% of professional rugby players across the world are of Pacific Island descent, yet in last years world cup, none of the nations even made it out of their groups.
Coach of the historic Fiji Sevens side that won the Olympic Gold in Rio, Ben Ryan, is spearheading the movement.
“If you have a look at the impact the Fiji players are having on tier one countries, they are the star players in New Zealand, Australia, England and France”
Although Ryan is yet to receive backing from Super Rugby, he is confident of the plan’s success.
“We have got more money than any other franchise in Super Rugby and we can guarantee that. Plus, we can build a new stadium that is a 10-minute drive from Nadi airport and surrounded by 20 five-star hotels. Also, 10 of the Super Rugby teams would be within a four-hour flight of the stadium”
With 14 Pacific Islanders representing other nations this weekend alone, Ryan believes that a new franchise in Fiji will lead to one being formed in Tonga, and from there this would solve World Rugby’s residency crisis, and lead to more success in the future.
“I have been thinking about how we get Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to be consistent World Cup quarter-finalists and knocking on the doors of the semi-finals. The number one thing is to have a Super Rugby Franchise. It is the simplest way of doing it. It sends the strongest message and would reap the quickest results.”
With the backing received and the passion of men at the forefront of this movement, could this be a watershed moment in World Rugby’s fight to fix the problem the residency rule currently presents?
Oscar Reilly, Pundit Arena
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