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EDITORIAL: It’s About Time Oz Gives Back To The Pacific Islands

The last week has been great for rugby in the Pacific Islands. And full marks to the New Zealand Rugby Union for making it happen. The historic test last Wednesday
12 Jul 2015 08:50
EDITORIAL: It’s About Time Oz Gives Back To The Pacific Islands

The last week has been great for rugby in the Pacific Islands.

And full marks to the New Zealand Rugby Union for making it happen.

The historic test last Wednesday between the All Blacks and Manu Samoa in Apia received international attention. It’s not only for the buzz it created but also the quality performance by the islanders against the world champions.

The All Blacks’ visit brought the city to a standstill, and even though only 8104 could watch the match because of the sitting capacity, the rugby-mad nation was given a half-day holiday to celebrate the occasion.

Yesterday, the Maori All Blacks played the Flying Fijians for the 29thtime and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has led the call for the event to be an annual affair. We lost narrowly by one point a game that we threw away through mistakes and indiscipline in the second half. But we celebrated because it was the sort of tough competition we need to prepare for the Rugby World Cup. So we thank the New Zealand Rugby Union for the opportunity.

It’s about time Australia rugby consider playing in the islands like the All Blacks did. The Wallabies should be playing a test in Fiji, Tonga or Samoa. Imagined what would do to islands rugby.

The test in Samoa came after a long and concerted push for the Kiwis to acknowledge the huge contribution Samoan players have made to New Zealand rugby. As far as Pacific influence goes, Australia is rapidly catching up. The current 40-man Wallabies squad have Pacific Islander heritage, including some of the biggest names: Israel Folau, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tevita Kuridrani,Henry Speight, Matt Toomua, Taqele Naiyaravoro and Samu Kerevi.

The Wallabies have played three times in Fiji, in 1972, 1980 and 1984, but never in Samoa or Tonga.

Fiji was invited to play two tests in 1952 in Australia to help in the rugby revival after the gaining popularity of rugby league.

Palu, who has pride in his Tongan roots, believed an Australian side would be as enthusiastically welcomed as the All Blacks.

“I think it would be perfect to do a little tour or something, to send a team over to tour the Islands perhaps,” he said.

“You just have to look at how many Islanders there are in the squad right now and some of these guys like “T” (Taqele Naiyaravoro) just come in from Fiji not long ago. So it would be a good way, I guess, to give back to the Islands.”

With Test schedules locked in years ahead, organising a Wallabies Test in the Pacific Islands would be tricky. But that should not be the reason for not playing tests in the Pacific.

Next year after the Rugby Championships which ends on September 17, the Wallabies play the All Blacks at Eden Park on October 22. So there is window there for playing the island nations before the Northern Hemisphere tour in November.

Wales will play three tests in New Zealand. This could be another perfect opportunity for a game in the islands for the Dragons. The British and Irish Lions touring New Zealand in 2017 could also open up a window for a stopover in the Pacific.The more Tier Two nations play top teams in the world, the stronger rugby is going to become.

It should not be just a case of 10 nations who can compete but we can have 20 in the future and really make the World Cup a better spectacle. Imagine if you have 20 contenders, not just six or eight.

The All Blacks and Maori All Blacks have led the way, it’s time the Aussies pay the islands a visit too.

 

Feedback: oseab@fijisun.com.fj

 



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