Wallaby's plan to grow Pacific Islands rugby
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Brumbies and Wallabies prop Scott Sio believes a Super Rugby game in Samoa could break through the red tape constricting Pacific Island rugby.
Sio, whose father David played for Samoa, and All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu will butt heads in Saturday’s third Bledisloe Cup clash in Sydney.
The pair have put rivalries aside as Samoan Tourism Authority ambassadors though, pushing for international borders to reopen with Australia and New Zealand into COVID-19-free Samoa.
Sio has proposed his Brumbies set the pace by heading east in a move he thinks would have terrific spin-offs for Australian rugby too.
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“It’d be something very special for the Brumbies to play there against the Blues or another team with a big Pacific Islander presence,” Sio said.
“With Patty leading the Blues, Allan [Alaalatoa] the Brumbies and Matt Toomua leading the Rebels you see a lot of Pacific Islanders stepping up into roles of leadership in professional rugby.
“It’s changing the tide there and turning some stereotypes around.
“Unfortunately we [players] don’t have a lot of influence there … but the amount of support I think you’d get [in both countries] would be huge.”
Wallabies Tests against second-tier Pacific Island nations have been few and far between, Australia hosting Samoa in a World Cup warm-up match last year and only playing Fiji once outside of World Cups since Samoa famously toppled them in 2011.
This year’s scheduled clash against Fiji in Townsville was cancelled due to COVID-19 while New Zealand shut down a detailed Pacifika bid to enter their new Super Rugby offering from next year.
There have been some inroads in Australia with the Fijian Drua winning the second-tier National Rugby Championship in 2018.
That competition has now folded but there is discussion and momentum behind the inclusion of a side in Australia’s Super Rugby offering beyond next year.
“There’s always frustration there, but there’s always a lot of moving cogs that get in the way,” Tuipulotu said.
“We can keep raising the awareness that this is something we want, but it’s almost like there’s been a lot of broken promises over the years and it’s really hard to start something.”
Sio said new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, who played one uncapped Test for his mother’s native Cook Islands, was already doing his bit by introducing team hymns in camp.
“The [Wallabies] squad has so many Pacific Islanders … it’s something we probably don’t celebrate as much as we could have over the last couple of years,” he said.
“And he found the way to do that was through song; the ability to hold a harmony is similar to being on the same wavelength on the rugby field.”