WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Pasifika players would only consider a boycott of the Rugby World Cup as a “last resort” and have welcomed the prospect of a meeting to take another look at the ‘World League’ proposal, according to their union’s chief executive.
The global rugby community was in uproar last week after New Zealand media published details of a proposed 12-nation league that excluded minor countries, prompting a boycott threat by the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare group.
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper was moved to deny that Pacific nations would be excluded from the future shake-up, and the governing body’s chairman Bill Beaumont called for a meeting to clear the air.
Pacific Rugby Players (PRP) head Aayden Clarke said the players union had been encouraged by World Rugby’s public stance.
“All we wanted is for a rethink from the direction we heard everything was heading,” Clarke told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday.
“If Brett and Bill and all the decision makers are now possibly sitting back and thinking maybe we need to rethink this, then that’s a fantastic result for us.”
The New Zealand-based PRP is affiliated with the global International Rugby Players union.
Last week, Clarke said the proposal would signal the “death” of Pasifika rugby.
However, on Tuesday, he said a boycott was not yet on the table.
“Myself and the captains of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are in contact regularly and that hasn’t been discussed once,” he added.
“That is obviously always a tool the players have but at the moment that would be very last resort.
“We’re pretty confident, like usual, we can have constructive conversations with the stakeholders and get to an area where everybody is happy.”
Clarke said the idea of a second tier competition offering the chance of promotion into the top tier of a global tournament would be positive for emerging rugby nations.
“At the moment we know which tests the All Blacks and Australia are playing two years ahead, whereas for ‘Tier Two’ nations it’s very ad hoc,” he said.
“We do need a more meaningful, planned-out competition for the likes of Georgia, Romania, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to play in.
“But at the moment it’s about also having that (chance) to step up.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ian Ransom)