Former Manu coach disappointed with N.Z. Rugby

By Alexander Rheeney 05 October 2020, 6:00AM

Former Manu Samoa coach Sir Bryan Williams has expressed his disappointment at the decision by New Zealand Rugby to delay the introduction of a Pacific Islands-focused team into Super Rugby, reports Reuters.

NZR chairman Brent Impey said on Thursday they would delay expanding their domestically-centred Super Rugby Aotearoa until at least 2022, while they were not yet convinced of the feasibility of a Pasifika team on or off the field.

Williams, who played 75 matches -- 38 of which were tests -- for New Zealand in the 1970s, was involved in the Moana Pacific syndicate that had expressed interest in joining the competition.

“I guess we are just really disappointed by NZR that they said Pasifika didn’t front up,” Williams told the New Zealand Herald on Sunday. “That we couldn’t show we had a competitive rugby team or the commercial wherewithal to put it together.

“We are a bit flabbergasted by that, to be honest.”

Williams was born in New Zealand but has Samoan heritage and been a strong advocate for Pasifika players for more than 30 years.

He also coached Samoa for three years in the 1990s and led them to victory over Wales at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

“Quite frankly, Pasifika rugby has never really thrived since that time,” Williams told Stuff Media on Sunday.

“Then, we had Fiji and Samoa making quarter-finals of the World Cup. We were right up there.”

Williams said a Pasifika team would be feasible financially and would build depth by attracting players back from European clubs and developing upcoming talent.

Having a sixth team in Super Rugby Aotearoa next year would also attract significant support from New Zealand’s Pasifika communities, he said.

“We’ve got to get this off the ground 25 years after it should have happened,” he added to Stuff Media.

“I’ve been involved in rugby for a long time and this is too good an opportunity to let slip by.”

Meanwhile, rising Samoan rugby league star, Jarome Luai, will reportedly turn his back on Australia’s State of Origin football in favour of representing either New Zealand or Samoa.

Australian sports website Zero Tackle reports that Luai grew up in Mt Druitt, Sydney and is eligible to represent NSW in State of Origin, but according to Penrith Panthers teammate Nathan Cleary, Luai has no desire to wear the NSW jersey.

Under the game’s eligibility rules, Luai can represent NSW if he elects to play for Samoa, a tier-two nation, but will become ineligible should he represent New Zealand.

Should he pick Samoa, Luai could one day play alongside Cleary for NSW and form a formidable partnership that would replicate their form for the Panthers.

Luai’s form in the past month has been exceptional and led Cleary to call him the Panthers best player.

“But he has been unbelievable. The last month he’s been our best player. The energy he brings around the team, some of the stuff he does on the field, I’m in awe of it, he has so much talent and X-factor,” Cleary said. 

“He’s always happy and has that infectious smile. I’m lucky to play alongside him.”

The Panthers booked their spot in the NRL preliminary final after a one-point win over the Roosters last Friday night.

By Alexander Rheeney 05 October 2020, 6:00AM

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