Pacific Island players set to vote on Rugby World Cup boycott

Author
NZ Herald,
Section
Rugby,
Publish Date
Saturday, 2 March 2019, 8:40AM

Leading players from Tonga, Samoa and Fiji will vote on a decision to boycott the 2019 World Cup in response to World Rugby's controversial proposal to omit the Pacific Island nations from its planned 'World League' competition.

In a move that could throw this year's World Cup into chaos, the representative body Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) is canvassing its 600 members - including England's Samoa-born centre Manu Tuilagi - over a potential "legitimate player protest" in response to World Rugby's "calamitous" plan.

The PRPW says the call for a boycott is a 'legitimate player protest' at World Rugby's reported plans to exclude the Pacific for as long as twelve seasons from a new TV-driven world league of the top 12 Test teams.

"This is 1995 and the creation of SANZAR all over again,' said former Manu Samoa lock forward Daniel Leo, who heads the London-based PRPW which represents Pacific Island-heritage players throughout the European leagues.

"This is exactly what happened when they created Super Rugby and all of the subsequent years of expansion. Their watchword was – let's take their players but whatever happens, keep the islands out.'

"This will be Pacific Rugby Disaster 2.0."

Leo says it should now be 'abundantly clear that World Rugby has failed the genuine rugby fan' and has called upon the three Pacific national unions to break out of their position of silence and submission and support their players.

After discussions with PRP Chairman Hale T-Pole , Leo says the worlds two major Pacific Players Associations have joined voices to fend off this would-be threat to the survival of Pacific Island rugby.

"PRPW strongly support the position of IRP and PRP in condemning this proposal made by World Rugby, and any other format that restricts the Pacific Island's ability to advance as rugby nations."

"We invite our National unions to join this collective effort to repel this proposal, before it is too late."

Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have all qualified for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the absence of their star players would be a major headache for organisers who have reportedly struggled to ignite any genuine rugby enthusiasm amongst Japan's conservative sports consumers.

It's also possible that Pacific Island heritage players in other Test teams will consider some form of Rugby World Cup protest in sympathy with the plight of their kin.

The New Zealand Herald revealed plans for a 12-team world Test league structured over 10 or 12 years could start as early as next year and would see additional TV income of between 10m and 14m per union on top of existing contracts.

It had been reported initially that Fiji, along with Japan, would be among the Test teams that would include the so-called Foundation Unions of England, Scotland, Wales, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and the Tier One unions of Italy and Argentina.

But the latest reports now say that Fiji has been jettisoned and replaced by the United States.

Leo said the matter was already with the PRPW board and once their decision had been confirmed the matter would be referred to Leo and the PRPW's managing director Mike Umaga, the former Samoan union and league Test representative.

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