Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa have historically been known for their brute like physicality and their dazzling skills. Players from the Pacific Islands have become high valued commodities in some of the most renowned rugby clubs in the world. This might be the reason that these nations are struggling to pull things together though. On 7 September 2019 the All Blacks demolished Tonga 92-7, which left the rugby world frustrated. Tonga which has such a wealth of talent just haven’t been able to pull it together. However, you look at it though should we sit here and blame Tonga or should we look at the current world rugby season set up and structure which has given Tonga very little time to prepare for their Rugby World Cup campaign.
World Rugby Season?
What is a global rugby season? This is the idea that all teams in the world will play on the same schedule, which will allow all teams the same amount of preparation time. This does not happen however due to a split between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, who play on different schedules. All Blacks stalwart coach Steven Hansen said in the Tonga vs NZL post match press conference, “The problem that we’ve got is a calendar that doesn’t allow you to do that,” referring to the situation. Hansen offered a solution to the problem saying, “We have these wonderful ideas about growing the game but we don’t have an organisation at the top that wants to be strong enough to say ‘righto – this is what we’re doing, we’re going to have a global season.” Is it now time for World Rugby to reshuffle the playing cards and introduce a global system?
What good will a global season do?
This global rugby season Hansen is referring to would give these Pacific Island teams more time to prepare. The results of this would lead to more competitive test match rugby and also allow for more growth outside of the top tier. Hansen puts the problem the Pacific Island nations face in perspective saying, “It’s really difficult [for me] when your players play for five different franchises in New Zealand“, Hansen then went on to say, “So I can only imagine how difficult it would be when your players are playing all over the world and you’re bringing them back and you don’t have much time to prepare them.” Hansen is referring to the fact that most of the best Pacific Island players play in Europe due to the fact that there is more money in the game over there. Due to this factor, a priority is often given to the clubs, and players neglect their nations or are withheld from certain international competitions.
With all the talent that exists in the Pacific Islands hopefully soon in the near future there will be systems put in place that will allow for these great and fierce rugby nations to rise and really be counted on the big stage of world rugby. From an outsider looking in it looks to me as though the organisations need to get it right in terms of trying to put structures in place. Systems that give nations more power to dictate to clubs about whether players can play for their nations or not. It would be great to see these great nations playing more on the world stage and seeing what they can do at this year’s RWC.