7 Apr 2021

Keeping Pasifika rugby talent

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 7 April 2021
Moana Pasifika during the cultural challenge before the match between Moana Pasifika and the Maori All Blacks 2020.


Here's a challenge for next time you're in the pub: try coming up with an all-time XV of All Blacks of Pasifika descent.

It'll probably take you a while - there are a fair few debates to be had.

The argument over the back three alone could fill an evening: Jonah Lomu, Tana Umaga, Mils Muliaina, Inga Tuigamala, Joe Rokocoko, Julian Savea, Bryan Williams, Sitiveni Sivivatu ... and we literally came up with those names off the tops of our heads in about 17 seconds. 

It's fair to say rugby in New Zealand - and in other countries too - has benefited immensely from the constant stream of elite players hailing from Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.

But those contributions have hardly been reciprocated.

Moana Pasifika captain Michael Alaalatoa and Māori All Blacks captain Ash Dixon lead their team out to the field before the rugby match at FMG Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020 www.photosport.nz

Tier 1 nations rarely play matches in any of those countries.

A combined Pacific Islands team which played dynamic, attractive rugby faded into obscurity after a series of exhibition matches in the mid-2000s.

Japan and Argentina were invited to participate in Super Rugby before any or all of the Pacific Islands.

But all this could be about to change.

World Rugby and New Zealand Rugby have given their moral and financial support for two Pasifika teams - Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika - to join a revamped Super Rugby competition from next year.

While questions still remain over the financial viability of the franchises - despite World Rugby committing $2.5 million per year over the next three years, they will have to find millions more in private backing - it's the closest move yet to bring Pacific teams into the fold.

On today's episode of The Detail, Emile Donovan speaks to RNZ sports reporter Joe Porter and Pacific Players' Association chief executive Aayden Clarke about the long-overdue move, and what it might mean for the game's development.