27 Jun 2017

Sport: Top rugby nations urged to tour Pacific Islands

1:32 pm on 27 June 2017

Tier one rugby nations are being urged to follow the lead of Scotland, Italy and Wales by touring the Pacific Islands.

Scotland's Ross Road (3rd L) driving through Fiji's defence for the try line during the one-off test in Suva.

Scotland's Ross Road (3rd L) driving through Fiji's defence for the try line during the one-off test in Suva. Photo: Ivamere Rokovesa / AFP

The Scots were upset 27-22 in Suva at the weekend, one week after they stunned Australia in Sydney.

Italy were also beaten in Suva this month while Wales edged Manu Samoa 19-17 in Apia, a week after beating Tonga in Auckland, in a match originally scheduled for Nuku'alofa.

Flying Fijians coach John McKee said the feedback he received from the Scottish and Italian teams was encouraging.

"Talking to the management and some of the players of both the Italian and Scotland teams, they really enjoyed the experience of touring Fiji - the passion the people have for rugby and the friendliness of the people," he said.

"They really relished the time of their stay here and a number of people commented that it's one of the best touring experiences they've had.

"That's great and I think they need to look outside the square of just continually touring Australia or New Zealand or South Africa when they come south, and look to fit in more games across the Pacific to round out their tours."

Samoa's Piula Fa'asalele and Wales Steffan Evans battle for a loose ball. Evans eventually scored a double in Wales 19-17 win

Wales prevailed 19-17 against Samoa in Apia. Photo: AFP

Italy have now toured Fiji on five occasions and Samoa twice, most recently in 2014.

Wales have played internationals in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga, while Scotland have won three of their four tests against the 'Ikale Tahi but, despite trips to Suva and Apia, have yet to visit Nuku'alofa.

Fiji consolidated tenth place on the World Rugby rankings with their victory over Scotland at the weekend, who slipped one place to fifth.

John McKee said hopefully strong showings against Six Nations teams will encourage more top nations to put the Pacific Islands on their calendar.

"One of our goals is to be a very competitive team in world rugby, not just amongst the tier two nations but with tier one nations as well," he said.

"I think we're making steps towards that direction. We've certainly got the talented players but we have our challenges in pulling our team together with our players spread all around the world but it shows through a campaign like that that we're certainly heading in the right direction."

Change on the way

Earlier this year, World Rugby announced changes to the international calendar from 2020, with England and France both agreeing to tour the Pacific.

England have previously toured Fiji in 1988 and 1991, winning both tests, but have never played an international in Samoa or Tonga.

France defeated Fiji in Suva in 1998 and Samoa in Apia a year later, but were beaten 20-15 by Tonga in Nuku'alofa in 1999.

Australia have played three tests in Fiji but have never visited Samoa or Tonga, while the All Blacks played in Apia before the 2015 Rugby World Cup but have never visited Fiji or Tonga.

Fiji's Kini Murimurivalu tries to tackle Australia's Israel Folau.

Australia beat Fiji in Melbourne in June but last toured the Pacific nation in 1984. Photo: AFP