Proposed international rugby shakeup should worry Samoa

By Thomas Airey 31 January 2019, 12:00AM

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare chief executive officer and former Manu Samoa lock Daniel Leo said a proposed new World Rugby Nations Championship should cause concern for teams outside of the top 12 in the world.

Discussions have been held in Los Angeles this week between the chief executives of all tier one Test nations about reinvigorating the international rugby scene through a new competition.

The Times newspaper reported that the 12-nation competition, would use the existing Six Nations and Rugby Championship, combining the two in the existing June and November test windows and introducing playoffs.

Meanwhile, the tier two nations in the Pacific Nations Cup (including Samoa) and the America’s Championship plus the lower ranked European nations would compete in a second division for a chance to be promoted in the next season.

Leo said while it’s still not exactly clear what comes out of the proposal, he is concerned for the wellbeing of those tier two rugby nations.

“Samoa and Tonga would be on the out, and because the only way to get better is to play better teams regularly, they’ll get further and further away.”

He used the example of Super 10 Rugby, which was played from 1993-1995, between teams from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Tonga and Samoa.

“During that time Samoa went from strength to strength, before peaking at the 1995 World Cup.

“Fiji weren’t in that competition, so missed out on being exposed to the top teams, and didn’t make the World Cup.”

He said developing teams, retaining and attracting players, and generating revenue would all be more difficult for teams in that second division.

Being based in England, Leo is well versed in the advantages and disadvantages of a promotion/relegation model, like the club scene there uses.

“You get the same teams going up and down very year, that yo-yoing is a difficult place for those clubs to be in,” he said.

Leo said the same thing would likely occur amongst nations.

“That cut off point wouldn’t be good for development, there’s too big a gap between the oppositions.

“Going from playing the likes of Spain, Germany, Russia regularly to the All Blacks.”

He said the unspoken issue is the distribution of revenue the competition would generate, and that ideally all sides would benefit equally, including the tier two countries.

“The financial distribution needs to be clear and transparent.

“They talk about reinvigorating the international game, but it’s only the top nations at these discussions.

“To grow the game you’ve gotta talk to everyone that will be affected.”

He said even the presence of words like tiers show exactly where the global game is at.

“It’s an imperialistic mindset, football doesn’t have tiers.”

Leo said despite the Samoa Rugby Union now having a seat on the World Rugby Council, it appears as though the sport still has the same attitude to tier two nations.

“We’ll see whether it’s really about development, or more of the old boys lining their pockets.”

He said before even looking at restructure the international calendar, World Rugby need to look at the current distribution of funds.

Leo noted for example the Manu Samoa’s test against England in 2017, for which the Samoan players earned 650 pounds each compared to 22000 for the English players.

“Thats the stuff they should be talking about.”

Fiji wing Nemani Nadolo retired from international rugby yesterday to focus on his career with French club Montpellier.

Daniel Leo said that’s probably because the club game is far more lucrative to international players, particularly with the current profit sharing arrangements favouring those top nations.

“It is a living for people now, you’ve gotta provide for your family.”

By Thomas Airey 31 January 2019, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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