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Sir Bill Beaumont is open to the idea of World Rugby funding a Pacific Island team in Super Rugby.
The franchise competition in the southern hemisphere has been thrown into turmoil by the Covid-19 pandemic and international travel protocols.
Sides from Australia and New Zealand are currently competing in national tournaments within their respective borders as unions discuss a trans-Tasman framework for 2021 and beyond. However, the way forward for franchises from Argentina, Japan and South Africa is in doubt.
Appearing via video link-up from Spain for The Breakdown show on Sky Sport in New Zealand, Beaumont was asked whether World Rugby would consider funding a Super Rugby team – predominantly made up of players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga – as they have done for Argentina’s Jaguares outfit.
“I think we should do, without a doubt,” said Beaumont, who was re-elected as chairman of rugby union’s global governing body for a second four-year term earlier this year.
“What I find quite interesting is that there seems to be huge enthusiasm [for it] south of the equator. There is a team they are talking about in Hawaii, playing in Major League Rugby [in the United States]. I have heard that [teams from] Fiji or Japan could be invited into Super Rugby.
“These are decisions that need to be taken because we are in a position at the moment where players and teams have been travelling the globe. don’t think this will return in the near future, so what we have to do is be creative and work together with our partners.”
World Rugby already help to fund Fijian Drua, who have enjoyed eye-catching success in the past three editions of Australia’s National Rugby Championship.
They also stage annual ‘combines’ for players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga where attendees work with world-leading coaches. Former England backs coach Scott Wisemantel has been part of the initiative.
Players are given the opportunity to earn professional contracts with affiliated organisations while being taught about other issues such as dealing with agents.
Even if the vast majority of players representing Fiji, Samoa and Tonga at Rugby World Cup 2019 were employed by European clubs, both Drua and World Rugby’s combines are becoming tangible pathways to Test rugby.
There are currently limits on the number of Pacific Island players that existing Super Rugby franchises are able to field, so establishing a new team – perhaps to appear in a trans-Tasman tournament – would theoretically provide high-level competition for more players closer to home.
Beaumont explained that Sir Hugh Robertson’s independent review into the governance of World Rugby would be exploring the issue of voting rights for Pacific Island nations.
The former England captain also confirmed that a council meeting on Thursday would ratify a temporary extension to the upcoming international window, during which an eight-team tournament is due to be contested between England, Ireland, Italy, Fiji, France, Japan, France, Scotland and Wales.
“World Rugby has made the decision to get international rugby up and running because that is what funds the game for every little rugby club on the planet,” he said.
Labelling coronavirus and the ensuing disruption as “a reality check for the finances of rugby”, Beaumont did acknowledge further negotiations lie ahead.
The aim is that, after this year’s emergency fixture schedule, unions and clubs across northern and southern hemispheres will be to establish a practical calendar that satisfies all parties.
“We are looking to get 2019-20 done and dusted,” Beaumont said.
“Then we can sit down – with the clubs as well – and ask: ‘What is the international calendar that suits everybody?’ I feel that there is a real spirit of collaboration.”....
SOURCE: THE TELEGRAPH UK/PACNEWS
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