Desert Islands

World Rugby have a lot on their plate – looking at player welfare, a global calendar, concussion and tackling only below the waist (sounds a bit rude!).

What doesn’t seem to be much of a priority is the shameful pillaging and unfair treatment of the Pacific Islands.

More concerning detail on this matter was published yesterday in this article –

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/rugby-union/2016/11/16/revealed-how-pacific-island-player-welfare-is-being-neglected-in/

This problem is compounded by the abhorrent behaviour of certain agents and clubs who capitalise upon the desperation of Pacific Islanders to seek a better life for themselves and their family as previously reported by this newspaper. Unfortunately, since Fiji won the sevens gold medal at the Rio Olympics, indications are that this exploitation has only worsened, with union now competing with league and Aussie Rules to find the next superstar who can be signed for peanuts.

“It is like a gold rush where Fijian players are the goldmines,” Seremaia Bai, the Fijian kicking coach, said. “Everybody knows what we can do. We are the cheap labour. The clubs know this. They know how we roll. None of us have any jobs in the island so playing professional rugby is an opportunity of a lifetime. When you give them €1,000 (£858) boys go ‘wow’ but the clubs are laughing. They can buy 10 Fijian players for one All Black player. That is not fair.”

World Rugby, itself, is wary of the corruption at the Fiji Rugby Union, so much so that just two years ago it cut off all funding to Fiji until it sorted out its governance. It evidently still does not trust the FRU, just as it does not trust the unions in Samoa and Tonga.

In May, it denied the three countries the right to have their own places on the council, but did allow in Georgia, the US and Romania. The Pacific Islanders are deemed fit to play the top sides, but not to sit at the top table. Instead, they are kept down and lowly under the umbrella of Oceania, a vast region also including Papua New Guinea.

An estimated 30 per cent of the players in the last World Cup came from the Pacific Islands and yet they have less than one vote between them.

Whatever it takes, World Rugby needs to address this outrageous disparity and address it quickly. Because the bias is bearing a huge influence between the posts and thus threatening to ruin the credibility of the sport. And in south-west London on Saturday, that will never be more shamefully obvious.

There are currently:

  • Nine Fijian-born or Fijian-capped players in England’s Premiership;
  • Six in the Pro12, featuring teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales;
  • Thirteen in the southern hemisphere’s Super Rugby competition;
  • And 35 in France’s Top 14.

 

A global calendar should, by definition, include the Pacific Islands, the other clue is in the title – ‘World’ Rugby. A very high percentage of players come from the Pacific & WR seem to simply be hoping the problem goes away. Which is just what the Island players are doing – much to the delight of agents and other, richer unions.

Extending the eligibility requirement would be a start – but certainly not the only answer.

Deserting the Islands seems grossly unfair, but then that may well what the members of the council intend!

 

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