World Rugby has launched a new project that will accelerate rugby development in the Pacific, paving the way for the region’s best and brightest rugby talent to thrive on the international stage.
The ‘World Rugby Combine’ features 30 players under the age of 23 from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, who impressed during the recent World Rugby Pacific Challenge. They are participating in a dedicated education and preparation camp in Suva, aimed at preparing the next generation of test stars for professional rugby, Fiji Rugby reports.
Underscoring the ground-breaking nature of the project, the top performers will be awarded professional contracts with pre-selected clubs, supported by an ongoing mentoring programme, delivered by the participating parties.
With player welfare and personal development as the central consideration, the initiative run in partnership with Oceania Rugby, Pacific Rugby Players (PRP) and the three unions, reflects World Rugby’s ongoing commitment to developing sustainable high-performance pathways in the region.
During the camp, players will undergo intensive testing and assessment before being selected to join a pool of high potential players from which pre-approved clubs can select players based on their squad requirements.
All players contracted under the programme will be supported in their ambitions to play international rugby. World Rugby will also manage the transition and welfare of players throughout the process, including support with flights, visas and a relocation allowance.
The decision follows the announcement of increased investment in Pacific Island nations Fiji, Tonga and Samoa last November, targeted towards enhancing the respective high-performance programmes and Rugby World Cup preparation for the three unions.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “We are excited to launch this new high-performance pathway project, which aims to accelerate the development of rugby in the Pacific region. There is a significant amount of talent in the Pacific Islands. By nurturing and safeguarding this talent and providing the players with opportunities to enhance their performance and that of their national team, the sport can reap the benefits at Rugby World Cup 2019 and beyond.”
World Rugby General Manager of High Performance Peter Horne added: “World Rugby’s increased investment in the region is already paying dividends. We expect this programme to further enhance the depth and strength of elite rugby in the Pacific Islands and continue to close the performance gap to the top-ranked teams.”