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Pacific Super Rugby a long time coming

The organisation that provides assistance on behalf of more than 400 professional Pacific rugby stars throughout European clubs revealed its influence behind the newest incarnation of Super Rugby.

The Pacific moniker was added to the Super Rugby name earlier this year in the latest step towards the professional evolution of the game in the southern hemisphere.

“It was definitely spoken about before that, but it was something that we thought as an independent new organisation we could really add some weight to this,” Pacific Rugby Players Welfare executive director Mike Umaga recently told the Pacific Media Network in New Zealand.

“The campaigning has been going for five or six years.”

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Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua have joined five New Zealand and five Australian teams in a shake-up ahead of 2022 after the initial Super 10s competition started out with Western Samoa representing the Pacific in 1993 and 1994, and Tonga taking over in 1995.

The two national teams were dumped for the new Super 12s concept and were never sighted over the next 25 years despite the 1996 season including four South African provinces while in 2016 both the Jaguares from Argentina and the Sunwolves from Japan were added for an 18-team competition.

Pacific Super Rugby a long time coming
– Fijian Drua earn their first piece of silverware after winning Australia’s 2018 national rugby championship. Picture: World Rugby

There was a sense of relief mixed up with a feeling of frustration after only just weeks ago the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare body won the rights for players from the Pacific to be eligible for the country of their heritage after being born elsewhere.

“It’s a long time coming – it should have happened a long time ago,” Umaga said.

“Where are we, 2021, and we have only just happened to get two Pacific teams in Super Rugby.

“They should have been part of the five-year plan or at least a 10-year plan from the outset.

“For it to go this long, and it’s great that they are there now, everyone is a bit sceptical about how they will benefit the (countries’) unions.”

The two new franchises will be based in New Zealand and Australia in at least their first season over the uncertain situation of border shutdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic.

That led Umaga, a former Samoan Test player 13 times, to ask why the Samoan, Tongan and Fijian

unions have provided so much of the talent share but have not benefitted from revenue in the game.

“When you don’t get any of that it is a bit of a hard pill to swallow,” he said.

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