World Rugby weighs up Pacific Islands Super Rugby side
World Rugby would "look favourably” on a Super Rugby team based in the Pacific Islands as a potential solution to stop the huge player drain out of the region, according to chairman Bill Beaumont.
On a stopover visit in Sydney, Beaumont acknowledged the need "to find a home” in professional rugby for the vast numbers of Pacific Island rugby players currently forced to leave their countries to pursue careers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Many never end up playing for Fiji, Tonga or Samoa; either recruited by foreign rivals via residency eligibility, or strong-armed by European clubs to not play for their country.
The Wallabies currently have five Fijian-raised backs, for example.
"They are being taken away from home, not necessarily all to Europe, but they go away from home,” Beaumont said.
"If you look at the contribution in rugby terms that those islands have made, it's absolutely enormous isn't it? Their contribution to world rugby.”
The same scenario with Argentinian players, who all played in France and only played at World Cups as a nation, prompted World Rugby to invest heavily in putting Argentina into the Rugby Championship.
SANZAAR then included them in Super Rugby and now most top Argentinian players are based at home.
Asked if World Rugby should invest in helping the best Pacific Islanders to stay at home, too, possibly through a Super Rugby team Beaumont had much to say.
"World Rugby already invest a significant amount of money in the Pacific Islands, and we want to help that investment. It could well be a Pacific Islands team playing Super Rugby. That might be a solution.
"We need to find a home for them, certainly,” Beaumont said.
"They are exportative rugby players. We have to be aware of the economics of rugby as well, that lure for players to go north and play in European clubs which is very tempting for the Island players. If there is any way they can stay on their island and still play top-class rugby, I suppose it is a win-win situation for everybody.
"Specifically, we will work with the individual unions and the shareholders in Super Rugby to find solutions. That's what we do.”
World Rugby have already committed to funding the Fijian team in the NRC this season, it must be said.
After a catch-up meeting with ARU CEO Bill Pulver, Beaumont sidestepped the problems facing Australian rugby but the former England captain said he was confident Australia could survive.
"All countries go through difficult times and it's obviously a challenging time for the ARU,” he said.
"It's hard to imagine that two years ago you were in the final of a Rugby World Cup. They have got challenges and World Rugby acknowledges the challenges Australia faces, but we have every confidence in the ARU that they will ride the storm and come out strong.”