World Rugby needs to play fair for the Pa­cific Is­lands

Fiji Sun - - Comment - LEONE CABENATABUA Feed­back: leonec@fi­jisun.com.fj

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.

Ben Rova

Fiji Swim­ming pres­i­dent

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