Pacific Rugby pressure group calls for "Seats At The Table" to end unfair inequality

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Daniel Leo (red scrum cap) in his playing days for Samoa

Pacific Islands campaigners have called for an end to “unfair inequality” at global governing body World Rugby.

Pressure group Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) has launched its “Seats At The Table” campaign, to push for greater Pacific Islands representation on the World Rugby Council.

The Pacific Islands nations’ only current influence on the World Rugby Council falls under Oceania Rugby’s two votes of a total 48. That regional umbrella organisation also represents the interests of New Zealand and Australia.

The unions of the All Blacks and the Wallabies also boast three individual votes apiece, leaving Samoa, Tonga and Fiji sharing two council votes with the nine other Oceania Rugby nations.

World Rugby has branded PRPW’s stance “surprising” however, insisting widespread 2015 reform allows any union the chance to earn an individual council vote – already seized upon by Georgia, Romania and the United States.

“We’re massively over-represented in every other area in Rugby, aside from administration,” the chief executive of PRPW Dan Leo told Press Association Sport.

“We’ve got terrific coaches in men like Pat Lam, Tana Umaga, Simon Raiwalui, and a new generation of young coaches coming through quickly as well.

“But then Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have just one per cent combined influence on the World Rugby Council. It’s not right.

“We consider this an unfair inequality in the global game, and we feel that improving the Pacific Islands nations’ representation on the World Rugby Council would prove a major step towards allowing the global game to flourish in precisely the way all the sport’s power brokers actually want.”

Leo and PRPW launched their “Seats At The Table” campaign on Wednesday in a bid to highlight the growing influence of Pacific Islands players across the global game.

More than one fifth of all players at the 2015 Rugby World Cup were of Pacific Islands descent, with 15 per cent representing Tonga, Samoa and Fiji. Some 43 players of Pacific Islands descent represented nine of the 17 competing nations outside that region.

Samoa, Tonga and Fiji have all qualified for the last two World Cups, but do not currently meet World Rugby’s full criteria to command individual council votes.

The game’s global governing body insists that any union already has the ability to earn the right to an individual council vote.

“These comments are surprising, given that there is a clear, transparent and fair pathway for all unions to take a seat on Council under sweeping governance reform launched in 2015 under Bill Beaumont’s leadership,” said a World Rugby spokesman.

“It has successfully incentivised unions and Georgia, Romania and USA have already taken their seat having achieved the criteria, while we continue to work with a number of unions, including the Pacific Islands, to assist them in achieving the necessary criteria to achieve Council status.”

Former Wasps and Samoa lock Leo explained PRPW believes a fairer set-up would centre more around World Cup qualification, in a bid to foster development among emerging nations.

“What makes sense to us is that if you’re in the World Cup you get two votes, if you’re outside the World Cup and you’re a Tier Two or developing nation, you get one vote,” said Leo.

“So that would be up for change every four years, but we consider this a meritocratic, performance-based approach.

“It incentivises strong performances, but would also help smaller nations and unions in becoming the masters of their own destiny. This approach would not just help the Pacific Islands either.”

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Wallabies and Springboks announce Rugby Championship squads but All Blacks hold all the aces

Alex Broun 8/08/2018
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Brodie Retallick (l) and Kieran Read are back for the All Blacks

Squads have been announced for the upcoming Rugby Championship, which kicks off on Saturday August 18, and despite the bleatings of coach Steve Hansen, the All Blacks look as daunting as ever.

The true achievement of New Zealand Rugby, apart from being the reigning two-time Rugby World Cup winners (2011 and 2015), Bledisloe Cup holders (every year since 2003) and Rugby Championship champs (five times out of the last six years), is being able to hold on to their best players.

Despite the lure of huge dollars from Europe they leak very few of their premium stars to France or England, and even when they do lose a current All Black they have a replacement ready to step in who is just as good: Jack Goodhue for Malakai Fekitoa (Toulon), Richie Mo’unga for Lima Sopoaga (Wasps) and Scott Barrett for Steven Luatua (Bristol).

The Kiwis’ talent and depth makes them the envy of the rest of the world.

Casting an eye over the other nations’ squads – South Africa, Australia and Argentina – it’s hard to see them giving the All Blacks too much trouble.

Wallabies boss Michael Cheika has shifted the deckchairs a little, bringing Crusaders’ flanker Pete Samu straight into the squad, though he is yet to represent an Australian Super Rugby team.

The 18-year-old Queensland flyer Jordan Petaia adds some interest as does the recall of midfielder Matt Toomua, who although he still plays in Leicester has become re-eligible for the Wallabies as he has signed for the Melbourne Rebels for 2019.

Toomua’s Tigers team mate Tatafu Polota-Nau is also named in the squad adding much-needed starch to the Wallabies’ hooking stocks, qualifying as he has played the requisite 60 Tests for an overseas based player.

There is no place however for Rebels flanker Richard Hardwick who impressed for the Australian Super Rugby Selection against the Wallabies in the pre-Bledisloe Cup trial last Friday.

The Wallabies have experience and considerable talent in fly-half Bernard Foley, captain Michael Hooper, flanker David Pocock, lock Adam Coleman, centre Kurtley Beale and full-back Israel Folau but they seem two or three forwards short of having a pack that can dominate the All Blacks – and that is what you need to do if you are going to beat them.

The Springboks will certainly be aiming to do just that and have the muscle to give the All Blacks a few jitters up front.

Former captain and lock Eben Etzebeth returns and he will help make up a monster pack with hooker Malcolm Marx, flanker Francois Louw, prop Steven Kitshoff and fellow lock RG Snyman.

They certainly have some speed to trouble New Zealand out wide too with Aphiwe Dyantyi and Makazole Mapimpi, plus the in-form full-back Willie Le Roux and scrum-half Faf de Klerk, but the Boks’ trouble will be consistency and putting together an 80-minute performance.

Any lapses in concentration and the ABs will make them pay.

New Pumas coach Mario Ledesma has opted for six new faces as he tries to turn around Argentina’s fortunes.

After being thrashed by an under-strength Wales (twice) and Scotland in June, Ledesma was brought into replace the flailing Daniel Hourcade.

But the former Pumas prop and current Jaguares coach has very little time to turn things around.

The new faces are lock Marco Ciccioli, hooker Diego Fortuny, tight head props Lucas Favre and Mayco Vivas, lock Franco Molina and Santiago Grondon, as the Pumas prepare for their opening game against South Africa in Durban next weekend.

Also included are established stars Agustin Creevy, Pablo Matera, Nicolas Sanchez and Emiliano Boffelli.

Argentina will be desperate to improve on last season’s Rugby Championship campaign when they lost all six of their games.

For the All Blacks squad click HERE.

Argentina

Emiliano Boffelli of the Jaguares .

Emiliano Boffelli of the Jaguares .

Forwards (21)

Matias Alemanno, Rodrigo Bruni, Marco Ciccioli, Agustin Creevy, Lucas Favre, Diego Fortuny, Santiago Garcia Botta, Santiago Grondona, Marcos Kremer, Ignacio Larrague, Tomas Lavanini, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Vivas Mayco, Santiago Medrano, Franco Molina, Julian Montoya, Javier Ortega Desio, Guido Petti, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Juan Zeiss

Backs (15)

Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Sebastian Cancelliere, Tomas Cubelli, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Bautista Delguy, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Bautista Ezcurra, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Martin Landajo, Juan Cruz Mallia, Matias Moroni, Ramiro Moyano, Matias Orlando, Nicolas Sanchez

Australia

 Jordan Petaia in action for the Reds.

Jordan Petaia in action for the Reds.

Forwards (20)

Jermaine Ainsley, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Folau Faingaa, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (capt), Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Caleb Timu, Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou

Backs (16)

Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Jack Maddocks, Billy Meakes, Sefa Naivalu, Jordan Petaia, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Curtis Rona, Matt Toomua

South Africa

 Eben Etzebeth is back for the Boks


Eben Etzebeth is back for the Boks

Forwards (20)

Cyle Brink,  Jean-Luc du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Thomas du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (capt), Francois Louw, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Akker van der Merwe, Marco van Staden, Warren Whiteley

Backs (15)

Lukhanyo Am, Ross Cronje, Faf de Klerk, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Andre Esterhuizen, Elton Janjies, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Lionel Mapoe, Makazole Mapimpi, Lwazi Mvovo, Embrose Papier, Handre Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Damian Willemse

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Comedy gold as All Blacks' coach Steve Hansen declares Wallabies favourites for Bledisloe Cup

Alex Broun 6/08/2018
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You have to give it to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. He certainly hasn’t lost his sense of humour.

Despite holding the Bledisloe Cup for the last 15 years, winning 33 of the 42 matches played during that period, and at almost unbackable odds – Hansen has declared the Wallabies the favourites for this year’s series.

That’s the same team that has beaten New Zealand just seven times in the last decade-and-a-half at a win ration of 19 per cent, including 11 losses by 20 points or more.

But it all means nothing to the All Blacks’ boss.

“After the Rugby World Cup, this is the most important trophy we play for,” he said, somehow keeping a straight face.

“We lost to Australia the last time we played them, so no doubt they’ll have a lot of self-confidence and are worthy of starting as favourites.”

Someone also needs to remind Hansen that New Zealand actually hold the Bledisloe Cup and have done so stretching back to almost last century as the 2015 Rugby World Cup winner spoke of wanting to “recapture” the famous trophy.

To do that he just needed to stroll into the NZRU offices to see the Cup is in the same spot it has been since 2003, save for being taken out once a year to be raised above the head of the All Blacks captain.

You could accuse Hansen of playing mind games if it wasn’t so laughable.

The Wallabies haven’t even got near claiming back the Bledisloe, being comfortably lapped in the annual series.

Indeed the All Blacks have only been in danger of losing the Cup twice in that period – 2007 and 2015, when they lost the first Test in the series, before comfortable victories in the remaining matches.

But in an attempt to remove complacency, Hansen continued to talk up his Rugby Championship opponents.

“We’ll face quality opposition throughout the Championship,” he said.

“Both Australia and South Africa appear to have grown their games and will come at us with real energy and conviction, while the Argentinians have a new coaching group, which will present new challenges.

“All of this means that this year’s Rugby Championship will be a well-contested competition and we’ll need to once again raise the bar across the board when it comes to our preparation, our skill levels and how we handle pressure.

“Being comfortable is not an option.”

Hansen will continue to tell himself that but when Hurricanes mid-fielder Ngani Laumape, who would currently walk into most starting Test XVs in the world, can’t even make the squad – it gives you an idea of how strong the All Blacks are.

Laumape will, however, provide cover for Sonny Bill Williams, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, while hooker Liam Coltman will cover for Dane Coles, who is expected to return to Test match rugby after a long time on the sideline due to concussion.

The squad also features two uncapped players: Crusaders prop Tim Perry and young Chiefs halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

Another feature of the squad is the return of No8 and Captain Kieran Read, who missed the series against France through injury, while lock Brodie Retallick also returns to the side after 11 months away from Test rugby.

It’s a frightening thought what these two World Rugby Players of the Year, in 2013 and 2014 respectively, will add to an already invincible team.

The squad has a total of 1,078 Test caps and boasts the best players in the world in every position barring a few.

The All Blacks squad will assemble in Christchurch on Thursday before taking on the Canterbury and Otago provincial sides in the Game of Three Halves match at AMI Stadium on Friday night.

A squad of 32 will then head to Sydney on Sunday to prepare for the first Bledisloe Cup Test on August 18 at 13:45 (UAE time).

ALL BLACKS SQUAD

Forwards:

Hookers

Dane Coles (31, Hurricanes / Wellington, 56)

Nathan Harris (26, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 13)

Codie Taylor (27, Crusaders / Canterbury, 32)

Props

Owen Franks (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 98)

Joe Moody (29, Crusaders /Canterbury, 34)

Tim Perry (30, Crusaders / Tasman, uncapped)

Karl Tu’inukuafe (25, Chiefs / North Harbour, 3)

Ofa Tuungafasi (26, Blues / Auckland, 17)

Locks

Scott Barrett (24, Crusaders / Taranaki, 19)

Brodie Retallick (27, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 68)

Samuel Whitelock (29, Crusaders / Canterbury, 99)

Loose Forwards

Sam Cane (26, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 55)

Shannon Frizell (24, Highlanders / Tasman, 1)

Jackson Hemopo (24, Highlanders / Manawatu, 1)

Kieran Read (32, Crusaders / Counties Manukau, 109) – Captain

Ardie Savea (24, Hurricanes / Wellington, 25)

Liam Squire (27, Highlanders / Tasman, 17)

Luke Whitelock (27, Highlanders / Canterbury, 5)

Backs:

Halfbacks

TJ Perenara (26, Hurricanes / Wellington, 45)

Aaron Smith (29, Highlanders / Manawatu, 74)

Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (23, Chiefs / Taranaki, uncapped)

First five-eighths

Beauden Barrett (27, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 65)

Damian McKenzie (23, Chiefs / Waikato, 15)

Richie Mo’unga (24, Crusaders / Canterbury, 1)

Midfielders

Ryan Crotty (29, Crusaders / Canterbury, 37)

Jack Goodhue (23, Crusaders / Northland, 1)

Anton Lienert-Brown (23, Chiefs / Waikato, 24)

Sonny Bill Williams (33, Blues / Counties Manukau, 46)

Outside backs

Jordie Barrett (21, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 5)

Rieko Ioane (21, Blues / Auckland, 16)

Nehe Milner-Skudder (27, Hurricanes / Manawatu, 11)

Waisake Naholo (27, Highlanders /Taranaki, 19)

Ben Smith (32, Highlanders /Otago, 67)

2018 Rugby Championship (all times are local)

1. vs. AUSTRALIA. Saturday 18 August, 7.45PM, ANZ Stadium, SYDNEY
2. vs. AUSTRALIA. Saturday 25 August, 7.35PM, Eden Park, AUCKLAND
3. vs. ARGENTINA. Saturday 8 September, 7.35PM, Trafalgar Park, NELSON
4. vs. SOUTH AFRICA. Saturday 15 September, 7.35PM, Westpac Stadium, WELLINGTON
5. vs. ARGENTINA. Saturday 29 September, 7.40PM, Jose Amalfitani Stadium (Estadio Velez Sarsfield), BUENOS AIRES
6. vs. SOUTH AFRICA. Saturday 6 October, 5.05PM, Loftus Versfeld, PRETORIA

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