Pacific Island rugby players have slammed world rugby’s new competition and claim the format will keep nations like Samoa and Tonga at the bottom of the rugby heap.

For years, rugby nations globally – including New Zealand – have plundered Pasifika players, using the islands as a rugby nursery to support their own competitions.

But now with the 2026 Nations Championship competition only featuring fixtures between World Rugby’s giants, the Six Nations, and the Rugby Championship – with only Japan and Fiji tipped to be included – that will leave tier two nations like Tonga, Samoa, Georgia, and Portugal out.

Former All Black and current Manu Samoa first five-eighth, Lima Sopoaga took to social media to speak out about the decision.

“As a Samoan rugby player, I am deeply frustrated and disappointed by the recent World Council decision to exclude smaller nations like Samoa and Tonga from the upcoming Nations Championship”.

“This move not only hinders our progress but undermines the spirit of inclusivity that rugby is supposed to stand for”.

All Blacks legend, Sir Bryan Williams slammed referees last week about an ‘unconscious bias’ against Pasifika teams, following Fiji’s defeat to Wales in their World Cup pool stage clash.

“It seems to be that the top nations, they control proceedings and this unconscious bias … they’re the ones who need to get through.”

Following Sopoaga’s Instagram post fellow International rugby players quickly came to his defence, including All Blacks legends, Keven Mealamu and Ardie Savea, and other teammates.

Sopaga, who notched up 18 games for the All Blacks believes World Rugby shows little interest in developing smaller rugby nations, by pitting them against each other, rather than against rugby heavyweights, such as New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

“The decision to exclude us from this competition is a stark reminder of the power imbalances in world rugby. This decision privileges the interests of the Six Nations and The Rugby Championship, and it’s disheartening to see those interests hold more sway than the dreams and aspirations of smaller nations”.

“We were excited about the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with teams like the All Blacks, Springboks, and Wallabies. But now that dream has been shattered”.

Current Tonga Rugby Union player and former All Black, Ngani Laumape reshared Sopoaga’s post in agreement.

“Couldn’t have said it any better.”

Sopaga, a former Highlanders number 10, believes rugby will never die in Samoa.

“Until then, we remain determined and steadfast, ready to prove ourselves whenever we get the chance. Rugby is in our blood, and no decision can extinguish that fire”.