Fresh concerns for Fiji's Super Rugby team
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Fijian Drua chief executive officer Brian Thorburn had admitted the new Super Rugby franchise will have to contract players not eligible to play for Fiji, according to media reports.
Rugbypass reported that Thorbun’s decision is to ensure they can make an impact in the new competition in 2022.
Thorburn told Fiji Times the intention was to concentrate on a squad of players who either are capped or could be chosen by Fiji but a lack of options in certain key positions would require the signing of players from other countries.
He explained: “There is a possibility that we may seek to contract a very small number of players who are not eligible for Fiji in the first year or two, but only to fill positions where we do not have adequate depth from Fiji players. Our intention is to only recruit players who are already capped for Fiji, or who are eligible to play for Fiji.
“Because our licence has been awarded so late, my expectation at the moment is that there might be one or two such players in the first year, but the vast majority of our 37 man squad will comprise players who are eligible to play for the Flying Fijians, either immediately or in the future.”
Fiji Rugby chief executive officer John O’Connor has admitted the Drua team cannot currently compete with the “six-figure” salaries being offered by European clubs as they prepare to enter the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific competition.
The Drua management has drawn up a budget of £4.5m ($13 m) for its initial year in the competition with an added £700,000 ($2m) in costs to have the team based in Australia next year.
The team is expected to sign 38 players including overseas-based players but O’Connor said: “We are starting on a journey and our players here are amateurs.
“We are transiting them into the professional environment. It’s our first year and we will continue to grow and learn as we participate in the competition. That is why we are not competing with those players who are on six-figure contracts in Europe.”
It is expected the squad will include members of the gold medal-winning Fiji men’s 7s team from the 2020 Tokyo Games although some players have already taken up lucrative contracts in France.
O’Connor added: “We want to create an environment and platform for them to be able to attract six-figure contracts in the Northern Hemisphere and anywhere else in the rugby playing world.”
By Chris Jones, Rugbypass