Pacific rugby set for boost in 2022 – Eroni Clarke

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That was former All Black Eroni Clarke's view of what he felt was New Zealand's leadership and inspirational approach in developing homegrown opportunities for players to show their wares.


Speaking on the All Blacks Podcast, Clarke recounted it was because the parents of Pasifika players came to New Zealand for a better life that their children's contribution to the game grew.


Because they were in New Zealand, they saw 1970's All Black Bryan Williams as a role model for his generation. Then, as they came through, they were the role models for the next generation of players.


Now, their next step in development would be from knowing they would be able to play in a side representing their heritage within the New Zealand structure, in the country where the best rugby teams and players were born and developed.


"Having Moana Pasifika as part of this new competition for next year, and even [Fiji] Drua, it gives a real opportunity for many pathways for Pacific [players] as well," he said.


There would be a lot of celebrating that within the Pacific community while also recognising that it provided opportunities for other players as well, he said.


"I think this is what it really signals to the rugby community. Hopefully, we will see more of that Pacific flair which we are so used to," he said.


An important part of the concept was the retention of players in the southern hemisphere, particularly in New Zealand.

"The wonderful thing about it too is that it is going to strengthen Tonga, it is going to strengthen Samoa, and, of course, Fiji is going to continue to grow on this rapid rise that we're seeing with them at the moment.


"We can see these international teams making the quarterfinals of World rugby [Cups] again, really pushing to become a Tier One nation again," he said.


Tongan fans had demonstrated their support for their team to New Zealanders at the Rugby World Cup in 2011 when meeting the All Blacks in the first game. The terrific atmosphere they created at Eden Park was something likely to be repeated time and again as their teams played in the new competition, Clarke said.


The joy Pacific people would feel when they see their players participating in their team would be incredible. That was already obvious when Pasifika players were involved in Super Rugby Aotearoa sides or when they played in overseas teams.


That warmed the hearts of fans not only to their teams but also to New Zealand rugby. And that was a win-win for all concerned.


The teams would also contribute to crowds coming back to games in New Zealand, he said.


Clarke said the sustainability of the sides, and the opportunity they would provide for pathways in the game and a longer-term infrastructure would be an important test.


There were comparisons to be had with the way it took the Jaguares and Sunwolves to adapt to Super Rugby. That would be important to remember as Moana Pasifika and Fiji Drua emerged, he said.


Listen to the full podcast with Eroni Clarke on the audio platforms below:










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