Fijian team to play in Aussie rugby comp
Photo Source: AAP
A Fijian team will play in the National Rugby Championship (NRC) from 2017, with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver receptive to the idea of playing a Test in the Pacific island nation.
The Fijian Warriors, who are effectively Fiji's second national team will join the eight existing Australian NRC sides and have all their costs covered by World Rugby.
Every Australian team will play a game in Fiji over a two-year period.
"The world of rugby owes a great deal to Fiji; they have produced a massive volume of extreme talent for our game," Pulver said.
"I think that's why you're seeing the generosity of World Rugby with this particular move."
"Asked about the possibility of Australia playing a Test in Fiji, which they have done only three times and not since 1984, Pulver said: "We would love to take a Wallaby Test to Fiji.
"Frankly, that's a debt we owe to Fiji and which is crystal clear in my mind.
"The great challenge is the international match calendar.
"This year, we will have the Wallabies play 15 Test matches and we quite simply can't squeeze any more juice out of that orange.
"We need to look long term at the opportunity to do that."
Cheika had no issue with playing a Test in Fiji.
"I'm big fan of that idea of rewarding Fiji - they have been big contributors to our rugby," Cheika said.
Australia had a handful of Fijian-born backs in their squad for their past two Rugby Championship away Tests in Samu Kerev, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani and Sefanaia Naivalu, who became the 900th Wallaby when he played earlier this month against South Africa.
Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama said entering the NRC was a huge step forward for his country, which had tended to see itself as the poor cousins of rugby compared to their larger neighbours Australia and New Zealand,
"I have to say that we have sometimes felt forgotten, so much so, that some of our best players have left Fiji and have gone outside the region to play professional rugby," he said.
"Some have even adopted countries when they would have much preferred to stay at home to play professionally.
"Of course, we are also aware of the exploitation of very talented players. This initiative does redress some of the current imbalances and provide our players with more opportunities," the prime minister said.
Fiji coach John McKee said participating in the NRC would keep players in the country for longer.
"I would hope that it maybe opens up some more doors for Fijian players to play in Super Rugby," McKee said.
"By playing in the NRC, they will be in front of the Super Rugby coaches and selectors."