A current member of the Pacific Players’ Association, Seilala Mapusua told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning the unlevel playing field faced by Tier Two nations is more dire than World Rugby acknowledges.
“Until we see some real change and movement from the north, it’s going to carry on being this way,” said Mapusua who was speaking after Fijian born Sevu Reece impressed for the All Blacks in their win over Australia.
“With 18 per cent of the world’s professional playing population being of PI decent, we should be seeing the results transferred in the Rugby World Cup in terms of how our Pacific Island teams are doing.
“Unfortunately, since Fiji in 2007, no Pacific Island team has made the quarter finals and that’s quite alarming seeing as we have a fifth of the world’s professional rugby players.”
TVNZ1’s Sunday revealed New Zealand Rugby proposed in 2004 to make the eligibility laws more flexible, allowing for greater freedom of players representing nations of birth or heritage. However, Northern Hemisphere Unions were blamed for blocking the proposal.
Mapusua moved to Europe to increase his earnings and understands why players take up offers from other countries which means they can qualify to play for other nations under residency rules that have been tightened up.”I think the anger’s been there for a while,” he said.”We’re getting to the boiling point. We’ll continue to do what we can from a players’ association view but we do need the support of our neigbours, both New Zealand and Australia, to get an even playing field.”
The issue over the loss of home grown players by the Pacific Islands nations of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, will be highlighted as each of the Nations competing at the World Cup in Japan name their 31 strong squads. Steve Jackson, the Samoa head coach, has already admitted there will be players who could have opted to join his squad for the Cup who have decided to stick with their European clubs for financial reasons.