World Rugby to help fund Pacific Island Super Rugby teams

World Rugby has agreed to spend more than $7 million over the next three years to support the establishment of two new Pacific Island Super Rugby teams.

The Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika were announced in November as New Zealand Rugby's preferred partners to join an expanded 12-team competition in 2022, subject to a range of conditions.

World Rugby's Executive Committee has approved a $2.36m annual funding package for an initial three-year period to support the two franchises, subject to NZR Board approval and key conditions being met.

Both franchises will also be supported by their respective unions and private equity funding.

World Rugby said the decision to help fund the Pacific teams was made following a detailed financial, performance and commercial feasibility study in partnership with New Zealand Rugby and the respective unions.

The funding is conditional on the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika satisfying the necessary financial criteria for entry, with the Fiji Rugby Union confirming last month it needed to raise $10 million to keep their Super Rugby dream alive.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said the move is a game changer and will provide the best possible platform and pathway for the Pacific Islands to reach their potential.

"On a human level, this is absolutely the right thing to do. It is great for the players, allowing them to make the choice for the first time to be part of a local professional team at the top level of elite club rugby.

World Rugby general manager high performance Peter Horne said the governing bodh was completing a meaningful competition pathway from local to national team level for Pacific Island players.

Fiji Rugby Union chief executive John O'Connor believes the development is one of the most important in their history.

"We are excited about the possibility of the Fijian Drua joining the Super Rugby competition in 2022. It will be a dream come true for not only Fiji rugby but for Pacific Island rugby. We have been urging for such an opportunity and it is almost in our grip.

"This is the missing piece to our rugby puzzle in the Pacific Islands and more importantly to Fiji Rugby. Being included in Super Rugby completes our elite pathway and will allow our best players to have the opportunity to play professional rugby right here at home."

O'Connor said they were not over the line yet and were working hard to meet all the requirements set by NZR by the end of March.

Lakapi Samoa chief executive Vincent Fepuleai believes a Pasifika presence in Super Rugby is crucial to keeping Samoa's best players in the region.

"This is a huge step forward for Lakapi Samoa and for Pacific Islands rugby. We have been reliant on our overseas-based players representing Manu Samoa, but the Moana Pasifika provides the missing link and pathway for our players to stay in the southern hemisphere. We are very grateful to World Rugby for this opportunity."

Pacific Rugby Players chairman Hale T Pole welcomed the news but added nothing was confirmed just yet.

"Our work behind the scenes over many years in partnership with Fiji, Tonga and Samoa and World Rugby has led to this pivotal moment. We are close now to achieving a step that I wasn't sure would be possible, and this funding opportunity for both teams is a big boost to help get a truly historic project across the line."