World Rugby needs to play fair for the Pacific Islands
Rugby will not be where it is today without the immense contribution of the Pacific Islands nations of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Often through their friendly nature they are warmly regarded as the island teams. But the reality is that they are also an important part of the very thing that makes today’s rugby tick. Take Fiji, Samoa or Tonga out of the Rugby World Cup, it will be seriously diminished. So would rugby’s claims to being a global sport. If you do that on the World Sevens Series, it’s going to make the Series look ordinary. And rugby’s claims to be an Olympic sport will suffer. The Australian Wallabies would not be enjoying their Tier 1 status, if it was not for the Flying Fijians. In the early 1950s, rugby union was virtually dead in Australia. Only 4000 people watched the Sydney Test between the Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks in 1951. Then in 1952, the Fijians arrived and their free flowing game was greatly admired and splashed on the front page of almost every newspaper in Sydney. They showed the Australians what running rugby was all about and they were the talk of the town. Come the Test against the Wallabies, a then record crowd of 42,000 watched that game and this led to the revival of rugby in Australia. This is only one of the many cases, but the simple fact is that Pacific Islanders are born to play rugby. The game of rugby as we see today- fast, physical and explosive- owes to what Pacific Island players have brought to the game. Today rugby heavyweights like the All Blacks, Wallabies, England, Wales and France are littered with Pacific Island players. And this trend is going to continue on with so many young Pacific Islanders being recruited by overseas schools and clubs. The onus is on World Rugby to be fair and transparent to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga before the council meeting in May. World Rugby may have their reasons for giving council seats to the likes of Georgia, Romania, Canada, USA, Russia or Japan. But the question here is whether it is right for them to keep neglecting these Pacific island nations who have given so much to the sport compared to what those countries have done?
Countries which struggle to beat the Pacific Islanders on the field. Countries where rugby is NOT the national game. Not even a major sport despite all the money and resources some of them have. The decision makers at World Rugby should realise that rugby is more than money and profits. There is a thing called goodwill. Sadly when it comes to the powers and politics behind World Rugby it seems too often lacking towards the Pacific Island nations.
With the current local talents we have, not many are looking to qualify for the Olympics as we have to be realistic but this is part of the development plans that we have put in place.
Fiji Swimming president