NRC: Wallabies Test in Fiji a 'debt' Australia owes

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

ARU CEO Bill Pulver says playing a Wallabies Test in Fiji is a debt Australia owes the Pacific Island nation.

The Wallabies have a handful of Fiji-born players in their Test side and Pulver said the country had plenty to thank their neighbours for.

New Zealand took a Test to Samoa in recent years, a move that paid off spectacularly and Pulver said scheduling would be the only barrier

“We would love to take a Wallaby Test to Fiji,” he said, speaking at the announcement of a new Fijian NRC team.

The Wallabies want their scrum to improve after a win over Fiji. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley“Frankly, that's a debt that we owe to Fiji, which is crystal clear in my mind.

“The great challenge is the international match calendar. We, this year, will have our Wallabies play 15 Test matches and we quite simply can't squeeze any more juice out of that orange.

“So, we need to look long-term at the opportunity to do that...We've just got to find a way to do that in the international calendar to fit it in.”

The inclusion of a Fijian team in the NRC will help repay some talent debt, with a view to helping Fijians play as much rugby at home as possible, it also opens doors for bigger events, including Tests or potentially a Super Rugby licence, national coach John McKee said.

“There's a lot of things that go round in rugby in the modern era and if we can build our capacity in those areas which puts us in a position to attract higher profile teams to come and play in Fiji,” he said.

“Hopefully, sometime in the future, a Super Rugby landscape could change and if there's an opening for a Pacific Islander team that we're in a position that we can show SANZAAR that we can host teams.

Australia will play Fiji in 2017, hosting them in Melbourne in what will be the sides’ first clash since the 2015 Rugby World Cup and one McKee said his team was anticipating already.

“It's hard to get more Test matches, it's great next year we're actually going to play Australia in Melbourne in June,” he said.

“That's a really big plus for us and one already that our players around the world are looking forward to because those games are very motivating for our players to come back and represent their country.”

While a Fiji-based Test might be a longer-term view, Pulver said the announcement of the new Fijian NRC team was a step in the right direction when it came to repaying their ledger.

“The world of rugby owes a great deal to Fiji,” he said.

“They have produced a massive volume of extreme talent for our game and I think that's why you're seeing the generosity of World Rugby with this particular move, it's certainly the reason we're embracing it.

Olympic Gold medallist Vatemo Ravouvou and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at the launch of the Fiji warroirs. Photo: ARU Media/Karen Watson“At a global level we have a great debt to pay to Fiji. The quality of the contribution they've made to the game over an extended period of time is truly unique.”

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika echoed his Pulver’s thoughts on giving back to Fiji rugby.

“I'm a big fan of the concept of supporting Fiji, they’ve been big contributors to our rugby and it’s only right that we do some squaring away on that front as well and help grow the game there because growing the game there will help us as well in the long run,” he said.