Fiji will field a team in the 2017 Buildcorp NRC, with the competition set to return to nine, in what ARU CEO Bill Pulver says is world rugby repaying some of the debt owed to the island nation.
The first overseas-based NRC team has been granted entry for the next four years and comprise of players from Fiji’s second national XV, the Fiji Warriors.
Fiji’s roster will include 30 locally-based players and the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has begun to look for a permanent home base for the side, which will play all of its home games in Fiji.
The expansion will mean that each NRC side will return to the eight-week format of the first two iterations, with each team having a bye.
Pulver said the inclusion would be beneficial in a number of ways, particularly giving fiji’s emerging rugby stars the chance to play at home, rather than move overseas.
The Fijian Prime Minister warned the Warriors would be in the NRC to win the competition and Pulver said he had no doubts the Fijians would be a strong outfit.
"The whole world knows that Fijian rugby is a unique strength of the game globally," he said.
"You've just got to look at the talent pool that they have playing all around the world.
"They're going to be fierce competitors and I take that from the prime minister very seriously. They will do very well next year."
World Rugby and the Fijian Rugby Union (FRU) have footed the bill for the side and Pulver said the international governing body had been interested in the idea since its inception.
"There's a major desire at a world rugby level to help promote the game in the Pacific Islands," he said.
"Clearly the economic imbalance of the game is a great challenge and trying to find an opportunity for players to remain resident in their home nation and earn an income or become professional players is a really important step.
"World Rugby were all over - they had their hands in this agreements from day one."