World Rugby has announced it will help fund two domestic Pacific Island nation teams, with the view of having both participate in Super Rugby.
The governing body for the global game has committed £1.2m in funding for a three-year programme to help boost teams like Fijian Drua of Australia’s National Rugby Championship domestic competition and New Zealand’s Moana Pasifika team.
“From a strategic perspective, it provides the best possible platform and pathway for the islands to reach their potential,” World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
“It is great for the players, allowing them to make the choice for the first time to be part of a local professional team at the top level of elite club rugby.”
The move is subject to approval from New Zealand Rugby and World Rugby said the teams will also be supported by their respective unions and private investors.
The Drua have competed in Australia’s second-tier National Rugby Championship since 2017 and won the title a year later.
“This is the missing piece to our rugby puzzle in the Pacific Islands and more importantly to Fiji rugby,” Fiji Rugby chief executive John O’Connor said.
“Being included in Super Rugby completes our elite pathway and will allow our best players to have the opportunity to play professional rugby right here at home.”
Moana Pasifika played their first and only game to date last May and included Fijian, Tongan and Samoan players in the loss to the Maori All Blacks.
“We have been reliant on our overseas-based players representing Manu Samoa, but the Moana Pasifika provides the missing link and pathway for our players to stay in the southern hemisphere,” Samoa’s rugby union CEO Vincent Fepuleai said.
“We are very grateful to World Rugby for this opportunity.”
There is scope for the inclusion of new teams as part of a new re-aligned Super Rugby competition, after the four competing teams from South Africa pledged their future to the PRO14’s expansion.