A Wales player is tackled during the Japan 2019 Rugby World by two Fijian opponents in October 2019. Picture: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP
A Wales player is tackled during the Japan 2019 Rugby World by two Fijian opponents in October 2019. Picture: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP

Wellington — New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR’s) decision to delay a Pacific islands entry into Super Rugby Aotearoa in 2021 is just the latest in a history of the Pasifika nations being “shafted”, says the head of the Pacific Rugby Players (PRP) union.

NZR said last week it had hopes to include a Pasifika team, but there were concerns about player depth and financial viability from syndicates that had expressed interest in joining the competition in 2021.

“I think our default is that NZR is the Pacific’s kindest neighbours,” PRP CEO Aayden Clarke told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday. “But if you unpack it a little bit and look at the history of the decisions made, quite possibly not.

“If you look at the facts, they [Pacific nations] have been shafted by New Zealand Rugby every time.”

Clarke added that it might now be more beneficial for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga to look to Australia, as there seems to be a greater willingness by Rugby Australia to accommodate them.

“I think the attitude is just a bit different,” he said, pointing to the Fijian Drua playing in Australia’s third-tier National Rugby Championship. “A lot of it comes back to the attitude of whether you want to make it happen. Or not to.”

Clarke added that a Pasifika team based in western Sydney also probably made more sense, as it has a larger player catchment area and fan base and better commercial opportunities.

“The thing is, with Covid, it has presented us with some terrible outcomes but also given us the chance for some innovation and to adapt,” Clarke added, referring to the coronavirus crisis.

“New Zealand Rugby have been given a free licence to do that for next year ... so I was thinking, ‘If not now, then when’?”

Reuters

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