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Creation of Pacific Islands Super Rugby franchise would transform Fiji - McKee

Published 15/11/2016

Fiji head coach John McKee believes his team would benefit from the creation of a Super Rugby franchise in the Pacific Islands
Fiji head coach John McKee believes his team would benefit from the creation of a Super Rugby franchise in the Pacific Islands

John McKee believes the creation of a Pacific Islands Super Rugby franchise would eventually transform Fiji into heavyweights of the game.

Plans are underway to establish a team comprising of players from England's opponents at Twickenham on Saturday, plus Samoa and Tonga, that would compete in an expanded version of the southern hemisphere competition.

By offering professional rugby in the Pacific Islands in the form of franchise that would be operational in the early 2020s, it is hoped that the player drain to overseas clubs can be stemmed.

England are among the nations profiting from Fijians opting for the greater riches available outside their homeland as they prepare to name Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni in their starting XV for Saturday's second autumn international.

McKee views the emergence of Argentina since their exposure to Super Rugby as proof that Fiji might also power into rugby's top tier.

"It costs a lot of money to run a Super Rugby franchise and the economies in the Pacific are small economies, but it could become a reality in the next five to six years," McKee said.

"I certainly feel that the groundswell has changed a little bit and we're realistically moving towards that now.

"From a national coaching perspective, to have our players playing in Super Rugby would be hugely beneficial for the national team because the windows fit in with the Test match windows.

"We would have access to a fair number of our squad at home over the whole 12 months. We would still select players from Europe, but the core of our team would be at home.

"With the talented athletes we have, if we had a Super Rugby team, we would be right up there.

"If you look at Argentina, they have improved since joining Super Rugby. They found it a bit tough with all the travel, but it's enabled them to have the core of their players at home for the majority of the year.

"You can see how Argentina's style has changed - they are a much more dangerous team now and had a very successful World Cup, playing very un-Argentinean style rugby. That has come from playing Super Rugby."

Fiji captain Akapusi Qera believes that having a Super Rugby franchise in the Pacific Islands would have a profound impact on their ability to halt the exodus and urges World Rugby to invest in the project.

"Having Super Rugby would bring professionalism to the islands and it would raise question marks on whether to come to Europe or not. If it happened, most of the boys would tend to stay rather than moving on," Qera said.

"If World Rugby wants the tier two nations to compete with the tier one nations, then they have to look into this investment in order to level the playing field."

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