23 May 2017

Sport: Cooks rugby can't afford to pick overseas players

11:12 am on 23 May 2017

The Cook Islands Rugby Union says financial constraints mean they will have to pick mostly local players for the Oceania Cup match against Tahiti in August.

The winner of this year's tournament will advance to a two-match series against the winner of the Asia regional qualifying tournament between Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea.

The Cook Islands won the Oceania Cup in 2013.

The Cook Islands won the Oceania Cup in 2013. Photo: Bruce Southwick/Zoomfiji

The winner of that series will contest the Rugby World Cup repechage tournament, alongside the third-ranked team from the Pacific Nations Cup between Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

Cook Islands Rugby Union president Moana Moeka'a said nearly all of the funding for their international programmes come from Rarotonga and it's simply not sustainable to fly in a bunch of players from New Zealand and Australia.

"You just bring someone from New Zealand for a week and that costs you probably NZ$2000 just for one player, to get him up here and look after him and feed him," he said.

"That is part of the problem.

"We have been, over the last couple of years, trying to forge relationships with our Cook Islands people in New Zealand to assist in this area.

"I've just been President for the last couple of years and what I've actually found - especially last year - is a good 95-97 percent of the international programme is actually funded out of Rarotonga," said Moeka'a.

"That's not sustainable, we can't afford to do that so we've really got to look elsewhere to try and source the finance to try and assist us - especially in terms of bringing players from outside of the Cook Islands together or even taking (local) players to New Zealand."

The RWC Qualifying Match between Fiji & Cook Islands, 2014.

The Cook Islands last test match was a Rugby World Cup qualifier against Fiji in 2014. Photo: Fiji Ministry of Information / Facebook

Moana Moeka'a said, while the national 15-a-side team hadn't played many games over the last 10 years, almost all of the players had come from New Zealand and the Union's financial situation was tighter than it had ever been.

He said if the Oceania Cup was held in Papua New Guinea, as originally was intended, the Cook Islands would have struggled to send a team, whether the players were locally-based or from offshore.

Moana Moeka'a said national coach Wally Tangata will select a local training squad for the Oceania Cup once the rugby league season comes to a close this week.