New Zealand Rugby has announced that Pacific Island teams Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika have been granted conditional licences to be part of the expanded Super Rugby competition in 2022.
The news follows after World Rugby last month announced that they will be spending annual £1.2 million over three years on the two franchises in additional to their funding by their respective unions and private equity funding to help them compete among the top tier teams.
The two teams will be joined by five Super Rugby Aotearoa clubs of New Zealand along with five Super Rugby AU teams from Australia in next year's competition but their inclusion will be still conditional on their final business plans and Rugby Australia’s support according to NZR.
NZR board member and former Manu Samoa and All Blacks legend Sir Michael Jones said 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.
“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. It’s an exciting time for rugby.”
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson expressed confidence that both the clubs will be able to meet the conditions of the licenses and is looking to finalise the deal by end of June.
“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.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Fiji Rugby Union Chair Conway Begg is excited by the news and is confident that the exposure of playing the top teams will benefit the players.
“This is a big moment for the Drua and will provide the impetus for us to finalise our equity partners, appoint coaches, contract players and confirm our commercial partners. We are on the home stretch and excitement is building across Fiji.”
Moana Pasifika Steering Committee Co-Chair and CEO of the Pacific Business Trust Pelenato Sakalia said they are determined to fulfil the conditions and make full use of the opportunity.
“We are excited to finally be so close to bringing the dream to reality, but there is still hard work to do, and we cannot afford to miss the moment. This decision on a licence enables Moana Pasifika to proceed with confidence and complete a number of financial obligations to sign off in the coming weeks, and formalise our player, coach and staff recruitment.”