Former Fiji Sevens coach Ben Ryan says a Super Rugby franchise could transform Pacific Island rugby.
The New Zealand government recently funded a study into the feasibility of a Pacific Island Super Rugby team, which concluded it is viable.
The franchise would be based in Suva, Fiji, but also play home games in Samoa, Tonga, Auckland and Sydney.
The team would enter the competition in 2021.
Ryan told Stuff.co.nz that he had met with Sanzaar a while ago after a group of investors had approached him and expressed interest in funding a Pacific Island Super Rugby side.
However, the Fiji Rugby Union told him to stay out of it, as he was no longer involved in Fiji rugby. That scared off the investors, who bought an English football team instead.
‘Now it looks like, because of various movements, maybe the weakness of Australian franchises, maybe the South African franchises moving toward the European competitions, that the Pacific Island franchise is now a real opportunity,’ Ryan said.
‘It’s all about if they can now get it in place because if they do, the players will return and perhaps, more importantly, they will start a pathway on the islands.
‘So you’ll have Samoans, Tongans, Fijians, and there will be academies in each of the islands as well. With that comes education of coaches, for medics, for staff, for players, and you’ll start to retain players on the islands.
‘That franchise could be a very, very exciting one that would add massive value, not just to Super Rugby but to World Rugby because you’re going to get more players available to play international rugby and more time for those international coaches to spend with them.
‘It now just needs to happen.’