Moana Pasifika manager drops Super Rugby bomb
SPOTLIGHT: Moana Pasifika have revealed key details over the eligibility of its playing roster for next year’s Super Rugby competition.
Moana Pasifika are one of two Pacific-based franchises granted conditional licences to join a new professional competition involving New Zealand and Australian Super Rugby sides next year.
Speaking on The Breakdown on Monday, Moana Pasifika general manager Kevin Senio said 80 percent of the players on the franchise’s roster will need to eligible or available to play for Samoa, Tonga, Fiji or any other Pacific nation.
That would leave eight players within the franchise’s 38-man squad available to play for the All Blacks, Wallabies or any other test nation.
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“What we’ve done is we’ve used the New Zealand model and flipped it on its head,” Senio, who played one test for the All Blacks in 2005, said.
“So, 80 percent of the team have to be eligible and/or have played for Samoa or Tonga and/or Fiji – any of the Pasifika teams.
“For those who are going to be aligning themselves into Moana Pasifika, you can’t play for the All Blacks or Australia.”
Additionally, it was clarified on The Breakdown that those playing for Moana Pasifika would be contracted to the franchise itself, rather than New Zealand Rugby [NZR], who have two board members on Moana Pasifika’s committee.
That drew the ire of Pacific Rugby Welfare chief executive and former Manu Samoa lock Daniel Leo earlier this week as he asked World Rugby on Twitter to ensure Moana Pasifika “doesn’t become NZs 6th Super Team”.
Already 2 NZRugby Board members on Moana’s committee & hearing a NZRPA employee being lined up as Moana Director of Rugby.
Lots of room for conflict of interest.ADVERTISEMENT
Very little consultation with SAMOA & TONGA
— Daniel Leo (@danleo82) April 16, 2021
Senio’s comments may go some way to alleviating concerns, though, given the majority of those playing for the newly-announced side will align themselves with the Pacific Islands on the international stage.
However, Senio acknowledged Moana Pasifika are under “time pressure” to contract individuals to bring together a full playing squad and a coaching staff.
He said that among the conditions of the franchise’s conditional licence was that they will be competitive upon their induction in the new competition.
That has forced Moana Pasifika’s recruitment team to cast their net abroad in the hope of luring overseas-based stars back to the Pacific Islands, while they will also look to promote players from the region’s top local leagues and U20 programmes.
“The licence term is that this team needs to be competitive,” Senio said.
“So, it’s a balance of having established players and all those who are overseas that can help this team in terms of performance, and the other part of it is the backfill and connect into the high performance environments up in Tonga and Samoa and look at their existing programmes.
“They’ve got the national U20s programme amongst Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, and also a national A-level, so in terms of identifying talent, that’s who we’re going to connect into.”
Meanwhile, Senio confirmed that Moana Pasifika will use the same pay scale used by New Zealand’s Super Rugby sides, and that the franchise will be primarily based out of South Auckland at Mt Smart Stadium due to a bigger fan market and the potential travel implications of COVID-19.
He also suggested home matches could be played across the Pacific, including Apia and Hawaii, but ruled Nuku’alofa out of staging matches for the time being given the Tongan capital’s lack of infrastructure.
Senio added he hopes that Moana Pasifika can permanently establish their home base between Samoa and Tonga once the franchise is fully up and running.