“This is a time of self- cen­tred­ness and greed in rugby”

The Pa­cific Is­lands are still strug­gling to com­pete in the pro era, so what’s the way for­ward? Stephen Jones spells out what’s needed

Rugby World - - THE FUTURE -

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ost of you will re­mem­ber the stun­ning Fiji wing Ru­peni Cau­cau­nibuca. If the name is not fa­mil­iar, then watch some clips on­line and you will find your­self won­der­ing whether this was the great­est at­tack­ing rugby player the game has seen – and yes, I re­mem­ber David Cam­pese, Ger­ald Davies and the host of won­der­ful Fi­jians, Samoans and Ton­gans, three is­land na­tions where rugby skills ap­pear to be part of the DNA.

Fiji have of­ten threat­ened to set the rugby world alight. Way back in 1970 they played a pow­er­house Bar­bar­ians side in Gos­forth and such was the Fi­jian bril­liance that sev­eral Bar­bar­ians clapped one of the galaxy of gor­geous tries scored by their op­po­nents.

Yet for all three teams, it is a long, hor­ri­bly dif­fi­cult and usu­ally un­re­ward­ing march. There has been a de­cent flurry of ac­tiv­ity around the three na­tions re­cently. Two Su­per Rugby games were played in the is­lands – Chiefs v Cru­saders drew a sig­nif­i­cant lo­cal crowd in Suva, Fiji, but Blues v Reds had few spec­ta­tors in Apia, Samoa, be­cause the ticket prices were as­tro­nom­i­cal. Hardly a mis­sion­ary game.

Then last month Eden Park hosted the Pasi­fika Chal­lenge. Samoa faced New Zealand as a warm-up for the All Blacks’ Test se­ries against the Lions, the is­landers go­ing down 78-0, and, on the same bill, Wales played Tonga, win­ning 24-6.

In this mag­a­zine we have al­ways treated with dis­taste the al­most to­tal lack of in­cli­na­tion on be­half of the ma­jor rugby na­tions in tak­ing their top teams to the is­lands, a grim run bro­ken in 2015 quite joy­ously when the All Blacks went to play Samoa.

But there’s no crit­i­cism of the author­i­ties for mov­ing the Tonga v Wales game from Nuku’alofa. The Ton­gans are in such an ad­min­is­tra­tive and fi­nan­cial state that there were sim­ply not enough Smooth mover tim Nanai-Wil­liams breaks v all Blacks

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