Consistently Poor, Consistently Damaging - Pacific Rugby Players Welfare react to SANZAAR’s non-inclusion of Pacific Super Rugby Team

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare Director Daniel Leo has today slammed SANZAAR’s decision to deny the inclusion of a combined Pacific Super Rugby side, suggesting a World Rugby intervention could be required.

Dream Dead: Pacific Rugby Players Welfare Board Member, Nemani Nadolo expressed a strong desire to play for a Pacific Super Rugby side and give back to the Pacific region.

Dream Dead: Pacific Rugby Players Welfare Board Member, Nemani Nadolo expressed a strong desire to play for a Pacific Super Rugby side and give back to the Pacific region.

SANZAAR was looking for an annual USD12m guarantee from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga as a precondition just to be considered for admittance to the annual Super Rugby competition.

‘The whole thing looks and feels like a sham and a cynical tick-box exercise designed to shuffle us off into the shadows for another four years,’ said Leo.

Media reports now say that Fiji, Samoa and Tonga’s failure to guarantee the USD12m means SANZAAR have ruled that Super Rugby will now not include a Pacific Island team.

‘Super Rugby is a competition that is as much built on Pacific Island talent as it is talent from those first-world unions that have set the rules and profited from the control of the game in the southern hemisphere to the exclusion of all others,’ said London-based Leo, himself a former Queensland Reds player.

Leo pointed to the final of this year’s Super Rugby which saw the Canterbury Crusaders defeat the Lions 37-18. Twenty-seven of the Crusaders’ points were scored by players with direct Pacific Island connections, including the opening try by Fiji-born Seta Tamanivalu and 17 points from flyhalf Richie Mo’unga.

Leo speaks on behalf of the PRPW which represents the interests of more than 400 Pacific Island rugby players playing in Europe, who compete in the Top 14, Premiership and Celtic leagues, all the way down to National 3 & Fédérale 3.

The PRPW has fought an often lonely battle to highlight the grave injustices meted out to individual Pacific Island players in Europe as well as wider political issues such as the lack of political representation on World Rugby’s Council and the skewered playing schedule at Rugby World Cups including Japan 2019, which advantages the more developed, richer Tier One unions who dominate World Rugby’s governance.

Leo blasted SANZAAR’s high financial demands and the whole process, describing the engagement as ‘representing the very worst elements of professional rugby governance: a privileged elite setting absurd rules of entry that will only bring down the game and its values.’

Leo said SANZAAR’s track record of decision-making was ‘so consistently poor, so consistently damaging’, following botched expansions from Super 12, to 14 to 15 and 18 teams, World Rugby should seriously consider direct intervention.

‘It is beyond belief, beyond shame actually, that these first-world unions are telling our third-world unions, whose impoverishment is the reason they draw so much playing talent from our islands in the first place, that we will have to meet this king’s ransom just to start a conversation,’ said Leo.

‘Since 1995 the stakeholders of Super Rugby have systematically expropriated the Pacific Islands best young players, deliberately marginalised the playing opportunities of those left behind, and done all that they could to frustrate the development of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga’s own player pathways,’ said the 39-cap former Manu Samoa lock forward.

Asked whether he expected any funding from World Rugby to cover the shortfall, all that Leo would say was:

‘2018 is not a World Rugby election year and, even if it was, we would have to have a repeat of the election drama of 2011 to really make a difference,’ said Leo.

It’s widely reported that in December 2011 Council votes from Argentina and the South American confederation were crucial in electing [former chairman] Bernard Lapasset over challenger [and current chairman] Bill Beaumont, after the scheduled election in October was deadlocked.

Political and financial support from the-then International Rugby Board [now World Rugby] for Argentina to join the South Africa-Australia-New Zealand alliance followed soon thereafter.

NewsMark Sowerby