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Rugby

Call to expand Pacific Nations Cup

The New Zealand Maori and Japan rugby teams’ inclusion in the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) could help regional teams get more game time and exposure to top level international games.

Australia A head coach Jason Gilmore said this promoted improvement and development for players and the team.

Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are core teams for the PNC and often other teams are invited like the Australia A.

Samoa head coach Seilala Mapusua said having more teams meant more game time for players and more chances of improving team cohesion.

“We want our players to play high pressure and high tempo rugby as often as we can,” Mapusua said.

Fiji coach Vern Cotter said having more teams in the PNC would be great for Pacific teams considering the limited quality tests they played annually.

New Zealand Maori’s Ruben Love runs in a try during the second rugby match between New Zealand’s Maori All Blacks and Ireland at Sky Stadium in Wellington on July 12, 2022. Picture: Marty Melville / AFP

The Pacific nations are not offered the same level of quality when the June and November tests are called and sometimes the matchups do not live up to expectations.

The only thing that comes in the form of tests is the PNC. This year, none of the Pacific teams managed to secure a June test unlike New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and South Africa.

These teams will play their international tests and then go into the rugby championship which provides more game time at the top level for players.

The inability to play internationals has been obvious in past encounters with Tier One nations regularly piling on points against the Pacific teams in the World Cups. This deficit was reduced as more Pacific players were given the chance to play in top level club competitions.

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Game time for Pacific national teams is still something coaches in the region want to address. For them, the time they have their national teams together is a fraction of what the bigger nations have.

This means that the time given to some of the best players in the world to perform as a team is not enough.

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