Play Fair, Avoid Mismatch

Change eligibility rules if we want to seriously lift Pacific rugby standard
06 Jul 2021 15:52
Play Fair, Avoid Mismatch
Flying Fijians (seating on the floor, from left) manager Willie Baleinabuli and captain Levani Botia during traditional welcoming ceremony by the Fijian community in Christchurch, New Zealand, on July 3, 2021

The 102-0 rugby test defeat of Tonga at the hands of  the All Blacks on Saturday came as no surprise.

From a perspective of Pacific rugby it was an embarrassment – an unfair contest because Tonga did not have the opportunity to pick its best players.

This was due to quarantine requirements and diffculties getting players from European clubs.

And Tonga does not have a reasonable pool of players to pick a reasonably strong team.

What do you expect when 13 players who took the field were debutants.

The tale of the figures told all. All Blacks captain Sam Whitlelock’s Test caps are more than all the combined total of the Tongan reps.

Fiji is in a better position than Tonga in the player pool department and we expect Flying Fijians to do much better than the Tongan performance and Samoa’s display against the Maori All Blacks. Samoa lost two consecutive tests.

Fiji is without some of its top players also because of quarantine requirements but it is still able to prepare a stronger squad than Tonga.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa did not have their best preparation.

New Zealand could have changed its Test window to allow these nations to prepare better.

But it stuck to its script and came out looking good on the ledger by mounting a cricket score against Tonga.

One of the best solutions to improve Pacific rugby is to change the eligibility rule to make it easier  for the Pacific All Blacks, Wallabies or any other tier one nation players to play for their country of origin.

At the moment there is a five-year stand down period.

If that can be reduced to two years or totally removed it would boost the standard of Pacific islands rugby.

At the moment that rule and others that govern world rugby are weighted in favour of tier- one nations to protect their financial interests.

But makes sound economic sense for tier-one nations to play strong Pacific island teams.

It will fill stadiums. If the Flying Fijians are competitive, push the All Blacks to the wire or cause a major upset at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin this Saturday, there will be a sell-out crowd for the second test at FMG Stadium in Hamilton, Waikato the following Saturday.



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