World Rugby says it has already increased its investment in the Pacific Islands after the Samoa Rugby Union declared itself bankrupt.
The game’s governing body has released figures provided in the region – covering Fiji, Tonga and Samoa – which amount to more than US$26 million in a four-year period from 2016, a rise of 19 per cent.
Working with Pacific Rugby Players, the body presenting players in the area, it says it has been aiming to close the gap between those nations and leading teams ahead of the next World Cup.
Peter Horne – World Rugby’s general manager for high performance – said: “In the 2016-19 cycle, World Rugby will invest an estimated US$26.6 million in programmes for Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, Sky Sports reports.
“This programme is reaping benefits with the outstanding performances of the Flying Fijians this year as well as the World Rugby-funded Fijian Drua, competing in Australia’s National Rugby Championship as a pathway for local players.
“Tonga’s win against Italy last November was a big push towards their Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification and we’d love to see similar results from them and Samoa this November.
“As we work towards RWC 2019, we need to ensure the three Pacific Island teams are as competitive as possible.
“This increase in world-class staffing and support will really benefit the squads (and is) an increase of 19 per cent on the last cycle.”
World Rugby’s announcement follows the Samoans’ declaration of bankruptcy this week through their chairman Tuilaepa Sailele, also the country’s prime minister.