15 Nov 2018

Sport: Fiji and Samoa elected onto World Rugby Council

1:38 pm on 15 November 2018

Fiji and Samoa have been unanimously elected onto the World Rugby Council after meeting new governance criteria.

The Pacific nations join Georgia, Romania and the United States on the expanded council and will take their place at the next annual meeting in May.

Fiji and Samoa will square off in their opening pool match at the Sydney Sevens.

Fiji and Samoa have both been elected onto the World Rugby Council. Photo: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

The Samoa Rugby Union already confirmed it had been awarded a seat last month after successfully passing the review of its constitution. Its seat will be held by the union's chair, Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.

World Rugby Chair Bill Beaumont hailed the decision, recognising the enormous contribution the Pacific Islands made to the global game.

"This is an historic day for World Rugby and the Pacific Islands, and a reflection of the importance and success of the transformational governance reforms made by this organisation and the unions.

"We are delighted to be welcoming Fiji and Samoa to Council, two unions who have contributed so much to the game. The Pacific Islands are unique, immersed in rugby, and I know that the unions will bring excellent insights and make strong contributions on Council."

"It's not something that just happened immediately - they've been working with us probably over the last four years," said Beaumont.

"When you think, as an area, the Pacific nations (and) what they have given to world rugby and now you've got Fiji and Samoa, who compete extremely well at World Cups, they're now looking at expanding their women's programme as well.

"We know what they do in sevens so I think it's just reward for the effort that they put in."

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont. Photo: AFP

Bill Beaumont said the Fiji and Samoa have now paved the way for other nations seeking a place at World Rugby's top table.

"This shows that the model is in place, the pathway is in place and the door is open to other unions who aspire to have a seat on Council. We encourage all unions to take inspiration from Fiji and Samoa, review their governance and strive to achieve the required criteria.

"World Rugby is committed to the sustainable growth of the sport set against a backdrop of strong governance, and we will continue to work with our unions to ensure that they have all the necessary support to achieve and maintain the necessary criteria."

Pacific Rugby Players worked alongside both Unions on their applications.

Pacific Rugby Players CEO Aayden Clarke (c) with members of the Manu Samoa team.

Pacific Rugby Players CEO Aayden Clarke (c) with members of the Manu Samoa team. Photo: Facebook/Pacific Rugby Players

CEO Aayden Clarke said while direct Pacific representation at the top table is long overdue they understood the reasons behind the strict governance and financial criteria.

"And that's just about building the capability of the Unions and now that they've achieved that I think it's fantastic," he said.

"It was an incentive for them to look at some of the ways they run their operations and us as the players have been there working alongside them to try and improve these.

"All the senior players that I've spoken to today are pretty thrilled that not only have they got the tick (from World Rugby) but they've earnt the right by making some tweaks of how they're operating the games in their countries."

Previously, Pacific Island nations only had a share of two of the 48 votes on the World Rugby Council.

Those two votes are held by Rugby Oceania, which represents 12 countries including New Zealand and Australia, who already have three individual votes each.