Speaking on Sky’s The Breakdown show on Monday evening, Moana Pasifika general manager Kevin Senio said that 80 per cent of the Moana Pasifika squad would either be already playing for a Pacific Islands nations such as Samoa or Tonga, or on that pathway.
That would invariably strengthen the test squad of the Pacific Island nations, but it also means that eight players out of their squad of 38 will be available for the All Blacks, Australia, or any other test nation.
“What we've done is use the New Zealand model and flicked it on its head,” Senio said.
“Eighty per cent of the team will have to be eligible and/or have played for Samoa, Tonga or Fiji.
“For those [80 per cent] who are going to aligning themselves into Moana Pasifika, you can’t play for the All Blacks or Australia.”
Earlier this week, Pacific Rugby Welfare CEO Daniel Leo also expressed his fear that Moana Pasifika would become “become NZs 6th Super Team”, asking World Rugby – which is providing funding to the side – to make sure that didn’t happen.
Former Wallaby Morgan Turinui also wrote last week that he feared Moana Pasifika would turn out to be “another NZ franchise who will funnel players through to the All Blacks”.
Yet, Moana Pasifika’s eligiblity mix is a complex subject, with Sky commentator Ken Laban arguing passionately on The Breakdown that All Blacks-eligible players such as Ofa Tuungafasi, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Vaea Fifita and Asafo Aumua – who aren’t starting at the Blues or Hurricanes – should be shifted into the Moana Pasifika side.
Theoretically, the 80-20 split revealed by Senio would allow a limited number of current or former All Blacks to make the shift, and also enable players such as All Black Ardie Savea – who is coming off contract – to play for Moana Pasifika.
However, Laban felt that structure wasn’t enough for Moana Pasifika to be successful, effectively accusing NZ Rugby of ‘hiding’ talent from the side.
“I don’t want to be negative, that’s certainly not my intention,” Laban said.
“But I just wonder if our game has got the backbone or the stomach to see this through.