In big news for Rugby in the Pacific, Rugby Australia has welcomed the news that conditionally approved licences have been provided to Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua as they prepare to join Super Rugby.
It comes after World Rugby last month pledged a $2.16 million annual package to guide the teams through their first three years, who are set to join a 12-team Super Rugby competition in 2022.
In a statement on Wednesday, Rugby Australia confirmed the decision was exciting news for the sport and the Pacific region.
"Rugby Australia is encouraged by the announcement today regarding the conditional approval of licences to Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua," the statement read.
"As joint participants and administrators in the competition, Rugby Australia looks forward to understanding the outcomes of the next phase in their licence approval.
"Rugby Australia is excited about the growth of Rugby in the Pacific and is committed to exploring future opportunities in the region, in conjunction with the continued sustainability and success of Australian Rugby and its Super Rugby teams."
Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos added: “We look forward to continuing our engagement with NZR on this process as we plan towards 2022.
“Once further conditions around the licences have been met, we look forward to formalising the composition of the teams in what will hopefully prove a new dawn for Rugby in the region,” Marinos said.
NZR CEO Mark Robinson was confident that the two teams would meet the conditions of their licence.
“We are moving into the final phase of planning for 2022 and beyond, and we have confidence that Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua will be able to meet the conditions of the licence, which includes final sign off on a sustainable business plan by 30 June," he said in a statement.
“In the next two months we will be working with Rugby Australia and the two Pasifika teams to formalise their place in the new competition for what we believe will kick off an exciting, new era for the professional game.”
The excitement was shared by NZR board member and former Manu Samoa and All Blacks legend Sir Michael Jones, who believes the announcement was a significant milestone.
"We are now on the cusp of realising a long-held desire to include Pasifika in our professional game and the opportunity to embrace all that comes with that," Jones added.
"With the approval of licences, Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua can now forge ahead with the final stages of their business plans and crucially start to lock in their playing and coaching rosters for next season."
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