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$12 million offer to finance combine Pacific Islands Rugby franchise

Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is keeping a vigil that a group of Pacific Islanders originating from the lucrative United States gridiron, (the National Football League, NFL) will deliver their offer to finance the combine Pacific Islands Rugby franchise for Super Rugby sanctioned by the SANZAAR.

In an exclusive interview with Radio New Zealand International’s Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, PM Tuilaepa reveals that a $12 million (US$4.5 million) bid has been offered by the NFL’s Pacific Island players to fund the Pacific Islands Combine for the Super Rugby Championships.

“We have a Good Samaritan; the organisation of Pacific Players playing for the American Sports who are interested in funding a super rugby team, and I think that is an opening for our Pacific Team, but it will have to be based in Hawaii,” said the SRU Chairman.

“We are still continuing discussion, if the Hawaiian solutions come through then we will have a Super Rugby team. Otherwise we are talking about issues that we can never, never, never finance because we cannot afford.

“… to me simply because of the finances I will soon refuse to provide any super rugby team or any players from Samoa to join a Super Rugby team because we do not have finances and the conditions (by SANZAR) are impossible.”

“It’s a great idea and it’s a great opportunity for Samoa, Tonga and Fiji to play in that competition. From our point of view, we just want somebody to be able to fund it. We support it, but it all comes down to money,” says SRU’s Chief Executive Officer, Fepuleai Vincent Fepuleai

“An independent franchise with a mandate of having Pacific Islands players in the team looks most likely,” he added.

“SANZAAR will decide whether to expand and a lot of work is going on behind scenes to find the right investors to be able to get it off the ground. Running it separately from the unions is a must.”

Setting up a Pacific Islands Super Rugby team has long been mooted but the idea now seems to be getting closer to reality.

Super Rugby has introduced teams from Argentina and Japan in recent years, and another revamp is expected in 2020. That is when a Pacific Islands team could be introduced.

There are other obvious benefits.

It creates a route to professional rugby for players based in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga without having to head overseas and would give the unions easier access to their best players while also making them more likely to represent their home nation than qualify on residency elsewhere.

A number of Super Rugby games have been played in the Pacific the last few seasons.

The Chiefs first played the Crusaders in Suva in 2016 and both teams’ returns last year.

While the Blues played the Reds in Apia last year, two years after the All Blacks played their first ever test in Samoa.

Super Rugby faces a possible change from its 18-team format from 2020 when the current broadcasting deal ends.

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