12 November 2015: Following on from recent meetings with Samoan Prime Minister the Hon. Tuilaepa Malielegaoi, Tonga Rugby Union President Epeli Taione is set to attend a meeting with representatives of Samoa and Fiji, which will be chaired and led by the Samoan Prime Minister, addressing concerns relating to issues of eligibility of Pacific players to join their respective Pacific Island teams for International events, and representation on the IRB

Currently Pacific Nations such as Tonga face serious issues in strengthening their player base due to eligibility issues for international events, further compounded by amendments the IRB has made to International Olympic Committee eligibility standards that state a player must play four games on the world sevens circuit to be considered eligible for Rio 2016. Fiji and Samoa face similar issues that have impacted on player selection.

This is one of a number of issues the delegates from the three nations will be discussing, as Pacific Rugby looks to the future and considers how it is represented at a global level, with a more holistic approach to how the IRB relates to the Pacific Nations. Key focus will be put on: Developing an international match calendar that embraces the global nature of rugby, and a possible restructure of the IRB to recognize the changing global game. Focus will also go on the current IRB statutes around player eligibility, with a view to bring them more in line with the current IOC standpoints

Both Taione and the Samoan Prime Minister agree that the way forward for the Pacific Nations is to address the IRB at a global level, to best promote and represent the respective nations and create more parity on a global stage. All three nations are scheduled to meet in Fiji on 22 November to discuss the proposal further and look to potential avenues of support to affect this change.

The implications of any rule change will be carefully considered by all three nations, however the potential impacts for all nations, the growth and strength that this represents makes this a key matter to be discussed. In particular allowing Tonga, Fiji and Samoa the ability to call on players who have played in New Zealand, and are now considered ineligible for selection by their home nation, or the ability to have a more powerful voice in the IRB will only serve to empower their respective side, making all three a much more dominant force on the world rugby stage.


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