Jarryd Hayne’s shock defection to Rugby Sevens has rocked the sporting globe but will give Rugby in the Pacific a much-needed shot in the arm.
While NRL clubs circle in the quest for Hayne’s signature post-Rio, it’s Rugby in the Islands that’s the real winner according to former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles.
Some pundits have voiced their disappointment at Hayne’s decision to play for Fiji, which would rule the code-hopper out of potentially playing for the Wallabies according to World Rugby’s strict eligibility guidelines.
“I think we’re being a bit greedy saying that these guys should play for Australia or New Zealand,” Hoiles said to rugby.com.au.
“We need to do everything we can to strengthen the Pacific Islands like Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and the Cook Islands.
"We need to help develop those countries and he’ll (Hayne) put them on the map.
“Fijians growing up will want to be the next Jarryd Hayne and that’s important.
“It would be awesome to have him in a Wallabies jersey but I’m happy that he’s decided to represent Fiji,” Hoiles said.
The talent-laden Fiji side will go into a training camp after the last leg of the World Sevens Series in London, where Hayne is expected to debut against Pool B opponents Australia.
Australia have a selection battle on their hands too but it’s unknown whether coach Andy Friend had preliminary talks with Hayne about a switch to represent Australia.
“They should have (approached Hayne) but they wouldn’t have known about it to be honest because I reckon he just wanted to play for Fiji,” Hoiles said.
“I like the fact that the guys who have ties to the Pacific Island nations go and play for them.”
The question now remains whether Hayne can make the rapid transition to the Sevens game, considering the vast difference between it and the short burst nature of the NFL.
“He is one of the great athletes we’ve seen in Rugby League,” Hoiles said.
“We can get technical and say why he can’t do it but I’m a glass half full man and I think he’s capable of doing it.
“He’s certainly talented enough to do it and he’s in a side that’s really, really good.
“The breakdown side of it will be challenging for him but one thing you have noticed is that he seems quite diligent and professional with how he deals with things so I’ll back him in.”
Fiji coach Ben Ryan has the unenviable task of whittling down his squad, that now includes the likes of European-based stars Leone Nakarawa (Glasgow) and Josua Tuisova (RC Toulonnais).
“Where he (Hayne) sits in this Fiji side, I don’t know because there will be some exceptional Rugby players missing out on that Olympics team for the Fijians but hopefully he’s not one of them," Hoiles said.
“I’d love to see him play at Rio, I’m not really disappointed it isn’t for Australia, I’m happy that it’s for Fiji and that he’s in our game.
“It’s interesting that he presented the jerseys to the Fijians for the Sydney Sevens a few months ago and that may have got him thinking.
“He sat in the Sydney Sevens crowd at Allianz Stadium in February and saw the exciting series that World Sevens has and he may have thought he wanted to be a part of it.”
Hayne is expected to line-up against Australia, England and Wales in Pool B in London this weekend.