After brokering a one-year extension to player pay deals on, Rugby Australia says their focus now shifts to progressing an expanded Super Rugby competition and developing vital pathways in the Pacific.

Last Thursday, the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) agreed on voluntary pay cuts with the governing body following COVID-19 disruptions since 2020.

They extended the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for a year which will cover all male and female professionals till the end of 2022.

CEO Andy Marinos said the deal was a collaborative effort between state rugby associations and the players’ association but will assist in navigating COVID impacts and the uncertainty of further interruptions.

He will now divert his attention to the forthcoming Super Rugby Pacific competition, with the inclusion of Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika vital to enhancing and developing pathways in the Pacific islands.

“They’re going to bring a point of difference,” Marinos said.

“In saying that, it’s going to be a hard transition as we’ve seen in the previous iterations of Super Rugby where new teams have come in.

Marinos and RUPA CEO Justin Harrison believe additions via the Pacific are not only important to bolstering competitiveness in the format, but also developing player pathways.

2It’s been quite clear from both New Zealand and Australia’s side of our intent to continue to help and drive revenue in the Pacific,” Marinos said.

“We’re really keen and excited to see how the competition is going to sort of settle down and start building momentum off that.”

The Drua have their first taste of non-local competition, securing victory in a trial match against the Melbourne Rebels last Thursday evening in Victoria.

Harrison said their exposure in the expanded Super Rugby competition will bring high-performance pathways to a nation on the fringes of the top 10 in the world.

“A Super Rugby model that’s got integrity and also a high-performance model to give developing-tiered countries an opportunity to expose themselves to a high-performance rugby model is beneficial,” he told AAP.

2We’ve seen historically from their inclusion in the NRC (National Rugby Championship) that they are able to have a team that’s competitive and that’s the direct flow-on from their exposure and involvement in that competition.

“Fiji have put together a squad that will be in their minds competitive, how that plays out throughout the competition remains to be seen.

2The important thing will be their base here in Australia. They’re dealing with all sorts of adversities and the support of athletes and staff will be a big focal point as well.

The Drua kick off their campaign against the NSW Waratahs in round one on 18 February.