Samoa's Ulupano Seuteni, right, congratulates teammate Alapati Leiua after scoring a try. Photo: Jae Hong/AP Photo
Samoa's Ulupano Seuteni, right, congratulates teammate Alapati Leiua after scoring a try. Photo: Jae Hong/AP Photo

Treatment of Pacific Island nations is shameful

By mike greenaway Time of article published Oct 2, 2019

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After two rounds of the Rugby World Cup, one unfortunate fact has emerged - the challenge of the Pacific Island countries has sadly deteriorated, and World Rugby should hang its head in shame.

Samoa, Fiji and to a lesser extent Tonga have been fierce competitors in previous World Cups, but they have gone backwards mostly because their best players have been poached by England, Australia and New Zealand, and because these island nations can’t get the wealthy nations to visit them and thus help them generate income while promoting the game.

There is also the downright greedy ruling in New Zealand and Australia that has all of their Super Rugby players having to declare their allegiance to those countries, meaning the Islanders in those Super Rugby teams can’t play for their home countries.

I get that New Zealand and Australia have this rule to ensure that their pools of players eligible for the All Blacks and Wallabies respectively remain strong and undiluted by foreign mercenaries, but haven’t they got enough quality players? Certainly New Zealand has.

But then without this rule, Australia would be without two of its best backs in Marika Koroibete and Samu Karevi (both Fijians). What a difference they would have made in the Australia-Fiji game in round one had they been in the white jerseys of their homeland.

A recent article in New Zealand’s Sunday Star Times pointed out that Pacific Islanders “constitute nearly 20% of the world’s professional rugby players”.

Tonga alone at this World Cup has 22 players playing for other countries. One of them starred for England against Tonga in round one, Billy Vunipola, while another unstoppable force for the Poms was Samoan Manu Tuilagi. When you consider that England has spent untold millions on trying to win this World Cup, the makeshift Island teams at the same tournament are literally the poor relations.

How on earth are they supposed to compete when their coffers are bare and their best players are in the colours of the bigwigs?

It is criminal that this situation is getting worse, not better.

Samoa, in particular, are a pale shadow of the team that has historically given the Springboks, for one, such torrid times in previous World Cups.

Until this World Cup, the Samoans were inevitably drawn in the same pool as the Boks, and after those games the South African dressing room resembled a Red Cross station at a battlefield.

In 2003, the Tackle of the Tournament came from Samoan wing Brian “the chiropractor” Lima on Bok flyhalf Derick Hougaard, a bone-rearranging effort that shuddered in the stands.

In 2007, in a pool game in Paris, Jean de Villiers was tackled out of the tournament by the Samoans.

One game in particular, I remember, was the 2011 pool game at North Harbour in Auckland where the Boks were desperately fortunate to scrape home 13-7.

Cut to 2019 and we have a depleted Fiji losing to a gallant but frankly poor Uruguay and the Samoans smashed by a limited Scotland


The Mercury

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