As we rapidly approach a century of international rugby games being played in Oceania between Fiji, Samoa and the Kingdom of Tonga, it is very sad that our closest neighbour New Zealand has never once bothered to play an official test match in any one of our three countries.
A New Zealand XV, returning home from an All Blacks tour somewhere else, stopped over for a game against Fiji here in Suva in 1974 and escaped by the skin of their teeth with a 14 – 13 win, thanks to an injury time try. So we can understand why they dare not venture out to these savage islands again: God forbid what if the mighty All Blacks should lose to Samoa, Tonga or Fiji?
But it really isn’t the All Blacks scalp we want. For the good of rugby across our region I argue the case that who we really need is the Maori All Blacks, who I am sure would relish the opportunity to bang heads against us coconuts – trust me it’s a “bro thang” ingrained in our Pacific Islanders’ DNA, so bring it on brother.
Seriously, the Maori All Blacks would present a more realistic challenge for us. No disrespect to my cousin brothers in Apia and Nukualofa but it’s all about capacity and scale and we simply don’t have either right now, or in the foreseeable future, to sustain playing the All Blacks here in the Islands.
Playing New Zealand’s national representative rugby team just once in 100 years isn’t going to do much for rugby in Oceania.
Think about it; in all likelihood it will only stifle rugby development here for another 100 years as we wait in hope, surviving off scraps from the Tier One banquet table.
My argument is that we can sustain an annual Pacific Nations Cup series of home and away games in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand if we include the Maori All Blacks. Can you imagine the public and commercial interest in these games here in Oceania and in Auckland?
From this then must evolve every four years, immediately after each Rugby World Cup, a Pacific Islanders tour featuring the very best players of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Maori All Blacks.
In doing so, the Pacific Islanders tour must take nothing away from the Tests and tours of the individual Oceania Island states, in the three years leading up to each Rugby World Cup.
Can you imagine the public and commercial interest in these tours by the Pacific Islanders every four years? I can.
Pacific Nations Cup, Official Programme, Fiji versus Samoa June 2014