11 Nov 2015

Sport: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga to get seats on World Rugby Council

1:20 pm on 11 November 2015

Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are to get seats on an expanded World Rugby Council in what's been called the biggest positive step in Pacific rugby ever.

The Council has approved wide-ranging reform of its governance structures, including increased representation for tier two unions and regional areas.

Oceania is currently represented by Samoa's Lefau Harry Schuster on the Council but the Pacific countries do not have individual seats.

The eight foundation unions: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand currently have two votes each, while Italy, Canada, Japan and Argentina all have one.

Membership will be expanded from 28 to 50 members in May of next year, with voting rights to include unions who have qualified for the previous two Rugby World Cups, and unions who've made a major contribution to the growth and development of the game.

That assures Fiji, Samoa and Tonga of a seat at the top table subject to meeting dedicated governance criteria.

The Fiji and Samoa teams pray after their Pacific Nations Cup title decider.

Fiji and Samoa players pray following a test earlier this year. Photo: World Rugby / Lorne Collicutt

Tonga Rugby Chair Epeli Taione at a Rugby World Cup 2015 event.

Tonga Rugby Chair Epeli Taione. Photo: Photosport

The President and Chair of the Tonga Rugby Union, Epeli Taione, says this is a massive step for Pacific nations, who have been campaigning on the issue for the past 20 years.

"It is by far the biggest positive step we have in Pacific rugby ever. Yes it's been a lot of work and a lot of good rugby administrators in the past that have put their effort and time into this and I'm quite thankful that World Rugby finally came around and it was well-supported in the Council, especially the European home unions. It's a huge deal for the Pacific and one that we are looking forward to make sure that we utilise it to the best of our abilities. I can't wait- happy news for us".

All six regional associations, including Oceania, will also receive two votes on Council.