03 March 2019, Apia Samoa. The New Zealand based Pacific Rugby Players association (PRP) have issued a statement saying that players of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa remain 100% committed and are looking forward to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The statement reflects a different position from the outcry on social media by Pacific Island rugby supporters since the New Zealand Herald reported proposed details of World Rugby’s global competition of 12 nations which excludes Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.
The competition believed to be linked to annual broadcasting income of NZD $10m – $14m per union, will run for 12 years without a promotion and relegation option, preventing Tier 2 and emerging nations from accessing top level competitive matches.
PRP CEO Aayden Clarke had earlier told Stuff he was in contact with the 3 CEOs of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, and they agreed that, “if it goes ahead, it would be the death of Pacific Island rugby”, adding that “we might as well start playing league”.
However in an about-turn statement pinned to their facebook page at 2.15pm yesterday afternoon, the PRP states, “In response to current media conjecture, we would like to provide clarity that the players of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa remain 100% committed and are looking forward to competing at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.”
Yesterday, Daniel Leo of the Europe-based Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) issued a strongly worded statement calling on the 3 Pacific nations to “break out of their position of silence and submission, and support their players”.
PRPW further confirmed that a call for a boycott of the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan was a legitimate option for their members in protest and response to the exclusion of Pacific nations.
“Our 600-strong membership of mostly Europe-based professional rugby players is debating a motion proposed by a group of senior test-playing representatives that members make themselves unavailable for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.”
Daniel Leo had also confirmed that, “After discussion with PRP Chairman Hale T-Pole, the world’s 2 major Pacific Players Associations have joined voices to fend off this would-be threat to the survival of Pacific Islands rugby.”
The joined voices have since taken different approaches with the PRP claiming to be the official voice of Pacific players.
“PRP are the official representatives of the players of the Pacific and are currently working alongside the International Rugby Players Association to ensure that World Rugby engage in constructive conversations about the next steps for the proposed global competition.”
“The threat of boycott of the World Cup is not currently on the table.”
“In all forums we are standing strong for the rugby players of the Pacific and continue to represent the best interests of the Pacific Island rugby. The players will be heard”, says PRP.
The 3rd organisation representing players’ interest is the International Rugby Players Association whose statement was issued after “40 players spoke via conference call with 9 of the world’s top 10 team captains dialing in.”
The IRP statement does mention lack of opportunities for Tier 2 nations to progress, however, the major concerns listed focuses mainly on Tier 1 player issues such as increased player loads, release from their clubs under Regulation 9, increase of long-haul travel on players, impacts on Lions tours, and player fatigue from playing too many test matches in different time zones.
- The New Zealand based Pacific Rugby Players (PRP) established in 2013, has 3 former Manu Samoa players on its Board – Jack Lam, Seilala Mapusua and Faifili Levave. PRP is Chaired by Hale Pole of Ikale Tahi with its other board members being Fijians Akapusi Qera and Deacon Manu, with Siale Piutiu the other Tongan. PRP receives funding from World Rugby and their website shows Digicel and HiFX. PRP has the same P.O. Box and same address as the NZ Rugby Players Association based at Eden Park.
- The European based Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) established in 2016 by Samoan, Tongan and Fijian rugby players is largely driven by former Manu Samoa Daniel Leo. Their website claims over 600 members of Pacific Island heritage playing throughout the European leagues. PRPW is an independent not-for-profit organisation. Their Managing Director is former Manu Samoa Mike Umaga.
- The International Rugby Players Association (IRP) has a membership made up of the national Professional Rugby Players’ Associations from South Africa, England, Australia, Ireland, Wales, France, and New Zealand. These member Associations are represented on the International Rugby Players Board, which has monthly meetings by conference call and at least six-monthly conferences in person. Their website states that Countries without established player associations are represented by their Player Council representative, which is made up of men’s and women’s players across all major rugby competitions in both 15’s and 7’s.