Concerns are being addressed that All Blacks and Wallabies administrators will attempt to raid top players from one of the two new Super Rugby Pacific franchises.
World Rugby bosses are talking with Moana Pasifika officials to ensure that next season’s Auckland-based entity will be netted exclusively for eligible Samoan and Tongan Test teams.
“It is nothing short of a game-changer and should not be under-estimated,” World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said after the announcement of Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua’s entry.
“From a strategic perspective, it provides the best-possible platform and pathway for the Islands to reach their potential.”
New Zealand Rugby holds the licence for Moana Pasifika that has been created for Aotearoa-based players that have passports from either of the two Polynesian nations.
But considering the history New Zealand and Australia has in recent decades for luring young talent towards a more lucrative pathway, fears that a Pacific professional franchise is only advancing self-interests rather than strengthening Samoa or Tonga test teams can further be suspiciously justified.
Pasifika players’ association chairman Tevita Hale Nai Tu’uhoko, or more commonly known as T-Pole, has recently revealed that Moana Pasifika had been prevented from setting up its own academy in Aotearoa as part of its New Zealand Rugby licensing conditions and protecting the All Blacks brand.
Players were initially wary of the proposed Super Rugby concept until the conduit, who represented Tonga 33 times, intervened as arguably the best-connected identity in the Pasifika rugby landscape.
“I did get a few messages from Tonga and Samoa when that announcement come through, and I fully understand the frustrations…but I don’t have a problem with it, for now,” he told stuff.com.nz
Moana Pasifika had been introduced in 2020 by New Zealand rugby to play the Māori All Blacks amid the height of a Covid-19 year after scheduled international Tests were cancelled.