Super Rugby would transform Fiji: McKee

Super Rugby
AAP
by AAP

John McKee believes the creation of a Pacific Islands Super Rugby franchise would eventually transform Fiji into heavyweights of the game.

Plans are underway to establish a team comprised of players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would compete in an expanded version of the southern hemisphere competition.

By offering professional rugby in the Pacific Islands in the form of a franchise that would be operational in the early 2020s, it is hoped that the player drain to overseas clubs can be stemmed.

England are among the nations profiting from Fijians opting for the greater riches available outside their homeland as they prepare to name Fijian-born Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni in their starting XV for Saturday's Test at Twickenham.
John McKee, Head Coach of Fiji looks on prior to the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between AustraliaMcKee, the current Fiji national coach, views the emergence of Argentina since their exposure to Super Rugby as proof that Fiji might also power into rugby's top tier.

"It costs a lot of money to run a Super Rugby franchise and the economies in the Pacific are small economies, but it could become a reality in the next five to six years," McKee said.

"I certainly feel that the groundswell has changed a little bit and we're realistically moving towards that now.

"From a national coaching perspective, to have our players playing in Super Rugby would be hugely beneficial for the national team because the windows fit in with the Test match windows.

"We would have access to a fair number of our squad at home over the whole 12 months. We would still select players from Europe, but the core of our team would be at home.

"With the talented athletes we have, if we had a Super Rugby team, we would be right up there."
Fijian Captain Akapusi Qera lines for French club Montpellier. Photo: Getty ImagesFiji captain Akapusi Qera believes that having a Super Rugby franchise in the Pacific Islands would have a profound impact on their ability to halt the exodus and urges World Rugby to invest in the project.

"Having Super Rugby would bring professionalism to the islands and it would raise question marks on whether to come to Europe or not. If it happened, most of the boys would tend to stay rather than moving on," Qera said.

"If World Rugby wants the tier two nations to compete with the tier one nations, then they have to look into this investment in order to level the playing field."

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