It has been something of a mixed week for the rugby mad island of Fiji.
First the bad stuff –
The RFU are paying just £75,000 to Fiji for the game at Twickenham on Saturday – a match that will generate £10 million for the richest Union on the planet. Ironically sponsored by ‘Mutual Wealth’
Fiji had asked for £150,000.
The revenue sharing is a bone of contention with the Southern Hemisphere – in particular New Zealand. The host nations on tours keep most, if not all, of the revenue.
So NZ, Australia and the others on the tours keep the dosh when they play at home.
Know when England last played Fiji in Fiji?
It was in 1991 – so I’m guessing that the vast amount of cash that Fiji rugby got from that game may well have run out by now.
The RFU recently announced record profits of £102.3m
The Fiji players will be getting £400 each for the match – England players pick up £22,000.
It’s not hard to see why Nathan Hughes has opted to play for England.
The offer to Fiji is derisory – but at least it is more than the other sides they are playing have given –
The RFU, it is understood, is the only union that has made a one-off payment to Fiji on top of the usual funding of the opposition’s hotel and travel costs along with giving them media operations support.
World Rugby pay for Fiji’s economy airfare, while the tier-one host union are obliged to pay for the cost of hotels, food and coach travel during their time in England.
Furthermore, the Fijian union are fighting to keep hold of emerging players because of the talent drain sparked by the three-year residency rule.
It is little wonder that Fijian rugby is an easy target for agents and unions who can offer life changing rewards.
Fijian youngsters are being poached by foreign scouts, with Ben Ryan, the Olympic Sevens-winning coach, comparing the unregulated market to the ‘Wild West’.
Nathan Hughes is the latest Fijian to qualify through residency, with the Lautoka-born No 8 due to make his full England debut on Saturday against his country of birth.
A second blow was that the Fiji 7s team and individual players were totally ignored at the World Rugby Awards earlier this week.
It is understandable that the All Blacks and Steve Hansen won team and coach of the year, but the way World Rugby are constantly going on about the massive and positive impact of Rio on the world game you would have thought that some recognition would have been given to the team that won the first Olympic Gold medal for 7s (and first ever for their country).
With their great success despite the meagre resources available to them, I can see why they might be a tad miffed.
But there is some good news – although World Rugby ignored them, Fiji’s gold medal-winning rugby sevens side have won the best men’s team at the Association of National Olympic Committees awards for their performance in Rio.
More importantly though there are plans to create a Super Rugby franchise, based in Fiji to help stem the drain of top players from the pacific Islands.
Ben Ryan, the Englishman who guided Fiji to their historic first Olympic gold medal when they defeated Great Britain in the sevens final in Rio, claims the move would be a “world game changer”. Some 19 per cent of professional players worldwide are Pacific Islanders or of Pacific Islands descent.
“I believe the impact of this plan would see Fiji win the World Cup one day,” Ryan told the Telegraph.
“We have shown in sevens what we can do. And if you just look at the impact the Fiji players are having on the tier one countries, they are their star players in New Zealand, Australia, England and France. That generation has gone but the future players are there and we have to make sure they stay on the island and they get the right resource, the right coaching and the fundamentals around it, like we did with the sevens, so there is no reason why we can’t dominate.
Wouldn’t that be something!