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A potential historic transformation of Pacific Islands rugby has been advanced with World Rugby confirming a package of financial and administrative support to help facilitate two teams joining Super Rugby from 2022.
Subject to New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Board approval and key conditions being met, the international federation’s Executive Committee has approved a £1.2m annual funding package for an initial three-year period to support the two franchises, Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika.
Both franchises will also be supported by their respective unions and private equity funding.
The decision was made following a detailed financial, performance and commercial feasibility study in partnership with New Zealand Rugby and the respective unions. The funding is conditional on these franchises satisfying the necessary financial criteria for entry.
The decision is aligned to core objectives of World Rugby’s strategic plan to increase the competitiveness of the global game and ultimately the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups.
It supports the ambition to develop locally-based players into test players for the three nations, giving each union the best opportunity to perform to their full potential on the world stage.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said:
“The game-changing potential of the Executive Committee’s decision to support Pacific Island Super Rugby franchises should not be underestimated. From a strategic perspective, it provides the best possible platform and pathway for the Islands to reach their potential.
“On a human level, this is absolutely the right thing to do. It is great for the players, allowing them to make the choice for the first time to be part of a local professional team at the top level of elite club rugby.
“While recognising that there are still steps to complete, I would like to thank everyone involved, including the unions as well as New Zealand Rugby and Rugby Australia, for their full commitment to this project which is great for rugby.”