Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua have been granted conditional licenses to enter a new professional competition planned for next year, New Zealand Rugby announced.
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson, NZR board member Sir Michael Jones, co-chair of the Moana Pasifika Steering Committee Pelenato Sakalia and Former All Black Sir Bryan George ‘BeeGee’ Williams announced the move at 2pm this afternoon.
Moana Pasifika is a joint Samoan and Tonga team and will likely be headquartered in South Auckland, while the Fiji team will be based in Suva.
In November, Fiji Drua and Moana Pasifika were announced as New Zealand Rugby partners of choice to join an expanded 12-team competition subject to a variety of conditions, mostly financial, to demonstrate that they are capable of funding each franchise of up to $ 10 million. year.
World Rugby last month committed $ 7 million in funding over the next three years to help fund two Pacific Island teams.
Sir Michael, who is also a former Manu Samoa and All Blacks legend, says competition is like that now.
“We are going with great enthusiasm and confidence into the future. This is the pathway for aspiring Pacific youth and ultimately, we believe in, hopefully, the women’s program.”
He said it was an opportunity for players not only from Pacific countries, but also for the Pacific community in Aotearoa.
“If we expand the access of more young men and women to our game, we have to believe that there will be higher peaks and bigger results along the way.”
Sir Bryan said, “I am absolutely delighted.”
He recalls how Samoa and Fiji were in the top eight about a decade ago, but had little to do with mainstream competition and “standards are gradually dropping”.
He said players were not allowed to compete in mainstream tournaments causing “game relegation”.
“This should have happened 25 years ago,” said Sir Bryan.
“NZR has taken a very bold step. With Super Rugby before, I was involved in Cyclone coaching about 20 years ago and the traveling factor in Super Rugby is just debilitating, very expensive too. So a lot of thought has been done about how this competition can be. arranged so as not too expensive and includes the Pacific islands.
“Better now than never.”
Sakalia, who is also the chief executive of the Pacific Business Trust, began to cry and said it was a difficult journey of strife and challenges.
“The empowerment model is something Moana Pasifika and Fiji will embrace. We have people, we have numbers and more importantly, we have the diverse skills you need to make it happen.”
He said there was a lot of talent among the Pasifika players but there was a need to “take advantage of our people, our culture, our stories and combine them with the commercial business skills we need to succeed as a professional organization but also attract the right people to train them to train. and manage “.
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said a business plan was being finalized and there were ongoing talks with Rugby Australia.
“This tour represents a genuine interest in this, in the sense that we are at the forefront of something very exciting for our future competitions that will elevate this competition more than just about rugby, it will be about how we bring a different community. and culture to live and be with. “
He said it served the NZR’s motto “road rugby”.
There is a commitment to quality, he said, so the teams that come have to be “sustainable and commercially viable, and they have to play at a very high level and very competitive”.
In a written statement the Chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union Conway Begg, who is in Fiji and unable to attend in person due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, added: “This is a big moment for Drua and will give us an impetus to settle equity partners, appoint a coach, signing players, and confirming our commercial partners. We are at home and excitement is being built all over Fiji. “