Opinion: ABs tour ignores Island rugby
Mon, 29 Oct 2012 5:53a.m.
By Jim Kayes
Another year of ignoring Pacific Island rugby draws to a close over the next five weeks.
On Thursday, the All Blacks head north to play warm up games against Scotland and Italy before the tests against Wales and England. It’s a tour that screams for mid-week games as loudly as the fans in Apia, Suva and Nu’ukualofa would support a visit by the All Blacks to their shores.
New Zealand and the three Pacific Island countries have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship in player development with the All Blacks, harvesting the fruit of Polynesian immigration to New Zealand; while the Island teams have been able to field players schooled and coached in the game in New Zealand. The latter has helped Tonga, Samoa and Fiji shine at various World Cups but it seems the bigger countries are happy for that to be their lot.
It’s almost as if the trio of proud countries are trotted out like a circus act to perform for the World Cup crowds then ushered back into the closet to let the big boys strut their money-making stuff in between the tournaments. It’s got to end.
For too long the International Rugby Board has paid little more than lip service to the Island nations. Sure they dip into their vast, World Cup-filled coffers to dish out a bit of money here and there. And yes, the likes of the New Zealand Rugby Union host games against the Islands nations that see the profits returned to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
But why is it that the IRB hasn’t scheduled tier one games in the Islands into their test calendar? Why is it that the All Blacks, along with South Africa, Australia and every tier one nation don’t play in the Islands? Yes, the schedule if full, but if it’s okay for the All Blacks to play “tests” against Scotland and Italy, surely they can stump up on the doorsteps of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
And while the IRB’s at it, let’s see the so called ‘Home Unions’ summon up the courage to re-address the all-important issue of eligibility and let tier two countries field former tier one players who are eligible to play for them.
International rugby needs more competitive teams. It needs the top four or five to be challenged – even beaten – by a wider range of teams. Allowing players to step down a tier, after a suitable stand down period, would help lift the standard of the international game. You can’t help but wonder if it is fear of losing that stops the likes of Scotland and Ireland, in particular, from supporting such a change.
As for the All Blacks squad that will head north, expect no surprises. Dane Coles will be the third hooker and Tawera Kerr Barlow the third halfback and both are likely to feature in the playing 22 for all four tests. Ali Williams will heave his creaking frame into the business class seat today even if he may not deserve too. Williams has experience on his side while coach Steve Hansen feels he has blooded enough players this year and unearthed two gems in Luke Romano and Brodie Retallick in the process.
Loose forward Adam Thomson is also expected to make the squad even though he is almost certainly going to be playing off shore next year. Thomson covers all three loose positions and with Brad Shields injured, the selectors see no other player worth taking a punt on.
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11/11/2012 10:32:25 p.m.
Instead of reacting emotionally can people actually look at the situation in its entirety? Yes NZ has been fortunate enough to have the talents of players either born in the islands or of PI descent....But as mentioned in the article it has been mutually beneficial for all parties. If you need to ask why the all blacks don't play in the islands then you need your head checked! Like it or not rugby is a business and put simply the islands don't have any suitable facilities that are of an IRB standard. Don't get me wrong it would be great for the three nations mentioned to have world class stadiums but lets get serious! Would such stadiums be economically viable for these nations that are struggling financially. In an ideal world we could all throw some money in and everyone would be happy but the real world does not work this way because these stadiums need upkeep and to have regular large crowds coming in. In these struggling nations can someone tell me how the average local could afford to see the big international games that I'm sure would be great see.
7/11/2012 12:49:05 p.m.
One word...'Money'...Thats what it comes down to.If it was a big money earner then they would've been playing in the islands a long time ago but its not.No people in their right mind is gonna invest in something that isnt making you money,in fact it would be losing you money.People need to put their business cap on when making viable decisions cos compassionate grounds may make you bankrupt.
31/10/2012 3:57:37 p.m.
Historic rivalry is there but what about the proliferation of Pacific players in NZ - All Blacks aside they are the providing this country, primarily, with a huge talent pool from which to choose for union and league, and NZRFU almost exclusively gets first dibs, Aussie aside now with their growing Pacific communities. NZ rugby can and should play games in the Pacific nations; why don't they give back to communities who have and continue to contribute to the game here. The point is why doesn't the NZRFU take that decision...you never know it might just be something else that's positive about the game - league has been doing something similar in PNG and now has great community relationships in that country.
30/10/2012 5:15:54 a.m.
piua kokanut wrote:
That would win the heart of many young islanders to see the likes of mcaw, carter and Williams back in the islands. Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa have contributed alot into all blacks and wallabies. Lomu, Nonu, Umanga, caucau,sivivatu, are not nz last names. Polota-Nau, fainga'a, kefu,kepu,ofahengaue ain't Aussie names. face the facts without the islander players, the all blacks and wallabies have nothing. Its time to give back to the people and stop being stubborn.
29/10/2012 9:46:40 a.m.
Get off your soapbox! The tours are based on revenue and historic rivalry. Yes, the island nations have something to offer in playing skills, and when they can pack a decent 40,000+ stadium they'll get their 80 mins. Good point about developing nations from KIWI RUZ, they should prove their pedigree by playing similar nations and building their own competitions. Get your head out of the 'not fair' camp and form an 'Islands fiesta' to rival the tri-nations and get the world interested. Then the big boys will be asking to join. Or does the NZRFU have to give them more money for this?
29/10/2012 8:06:26 a.m.
Kiwi ruz wrote:
Rugby is a business. Is it financially feasible for a tour to the islands and still be in the black? Why dont teams like Eagles, Japan and Canada visit the Islands? That also would develop those second Tier Nations rugby and would be a more likely win for the Island Nations. No one does more for Island rugby than NZ and it's true it is a mutually beneficial relationship. I think SA should follow NZs lead and develop rugby in neiboring African countries.
29/10/2012 7:37:02 a.m.
Why is Ali Williams in the frame? Steve Hansen has a well proven team of guys to choose from and has done well even without Williams. Williams has past his use-by.
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