Super Rugby

Drua In, PM Hails Super Move

World Rugby confirms funding package for Pacific Island teams in 3-year deal, Missing piece  to our rugby puzzle in the Pacific Islands-John O’Connor, It’s the next step to our evolution-Simon Raiwalui
26 Mar 2021 11:06
Drua In, PM Hails Super Move
Members of the Fijian Drua team after they won the 2018 Australian National Rugby Championship at Chruchill Park, Lautoka. Photo: World Rugby

World Rugby will fund the participation of two Pacific Island sides in Super Rugby in 2022.

The Fijian Drua and Moana Pacific are the beneficiaries of the financial package worth £1.2m ($3.32m.) annual funding package for an initial three-year period to support the two franchises.

And Prime Minister and president of the Fiji Rugby Union Voreqe Bainimarama described the deal as ‘fantastic’ for Super Rugby fans.

“Our boys have proved they belong in the Super Rugby circuit. I know I speak for every Fijian when I say it’s time we get this effort over the try line,” he said.

Similarly FRU chief executive officer John O’Connor described the historic deal as ‘a dream come true.’

The Fijian Drua made its debut at the Australia National Rugby Championship in 2017 and won the event in 2018.

Sir Bill Beaumont, World Rugby chairman, said in a press statement that both franchises would be supported by their respective unions and private equity funding.

The decision was made following a detailed financial, performance and commercial feasibility study in partnership with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the respective unions. The funding is conditional on these franchises satisfying the necessary financial criteria for entry.

O’Connor believes the development is one of the most important in the history of Fiji rugby.

“We have been urging for such an opportunity and it is almost in our grip,”he told Rugby Heaven.

“This is the missing piece to our rugby puzzle in the Pacific Islands and more importantly to Fiji Rugby. 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.

“We are not over the line yet. However, we are working very hard to meet all the requirements set by NZR, including strict financial diligence requirements by the end of March to satisfy the NZR board that we will be able to field a strong team on the field and a sustainable and profitable franchise.”

The inclusion would be a significant boost for players who wish to stay close to home and represent a truly historic venture, and it is a move that has had player representation at the heart of the decision-making process.

“Our work behind the scenes over many years in partnership with Fiji, Tonga and Samoa and World Rugby has led to this pivotal moment. We are close now to achieving a step that I wasn’t sure would be possible, and this funding opportunity for both teams is a big boost to help get a truly historic project across the line,” Pacific Rugby Players chairman Hale T Pole said.

FRU High Performance manager Simon Raiwalui said: It’s the next step on our evolution. “One of the biggest things is creating the opportunities for those players to be based in Fiji and earn a living, and be on that path with Fiji Rugby to long-term success.”

World Rugby’s funding decision is aligned to core objectives of the governing body’s strategic plan to increase the competitiveness of the global game and ultimately the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups.

It supports the ambition to develop locally-based players into test players for the three nations, giving each union the best opportunity to perform to their full potential on the world stage.

“The game-changing potential of the executive committee’s decision to support Pacific Island Super Rugby franchises should not be underestimated. From a strategic perspective, it provides the best-possible platform and pathway for the Islands to reach their potential,”Sir Bill said.

“On a human level, this is absolutely the right thing to do. 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.”



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