World Rugby to look at Pacific talent drain

World Rugby
World Rugby

Wellington - World Rugby pledged on Tuesday to examine a raft of issues that cash-strapped South Pacific unions complain is draining talented players from their ranks.

The governing body also reaffirmed its commitment to sustaining rugby in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa in the wake of financial issues that have affected all three unions in recent years.

It said members of its high-powered rugby committee had held "highly positive and constructive meetings with the three unions" in the Fijian resort town of Nadi.

As a result, it said Argentine legend Agustin Pichot had been appointed to review a number of issues and report back in October.

One key area is the conduct of agents, who Fijian coaches have long complained lure young players from the islands with unrealistic promises.

Pichot will also examine how rich club academies handle Pacific talent and the player-release regulations that island nations believe weaken their teams at major tournaments.

When Pacific players earn big money overseas they come under pressure from their paymasters to put club ahead of country, or to switch national allegiance.

In 2013 there were 272 players eligible for Fiji, Tonga and Samoa who were playing overseas, but only 198 were actually available as 74 had aligned themselves elsewhere.

World Rugby said the Nadi meeting agreed support programmes for the South Pacific unions should be enhanced in the future.

It said it invested 26.8 million pounds in the three unions between 2011 and 2015, as well as committing 4.0 million pounds to high-performance and development programmes in 2016.

Pacific rugby has long been plagued by governance issues.

In April, World Rugby had to step in with a rescue package for the Tonga Rugby Union after it was placed in receivership and could not afford to pay staff salaries.

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