Rugby World Cup 2019: Cash boost to Pacific Islands must hit targets, insists Sir Michael Jones

Rugby's cash-strapped Pacific nations are in line for a major financial boost after this year's World Cup in Japan.

World Rugby has pledged them NZ$40 million dollars - a 30 percent boost in investment - over the next four years, while also vowing to work with professional clubs and countries to ensure the best players are available for future global events. 

But one Pacific legend warns, if the money isn't used appropriately, the game in the islands could reach a crisis point. 

There's no doubting the passion of Pacific rugby, but investment hasn't matched it.

"It's not easy, there's no doubt about that," says World Rugby high performance general manager Peter Horne.

"But we're here and we're working in partnership with the groups and what those challenges are, and we're trying to make change."

One of those challenges is the financial might of European clubs, promising big cash for players to choose club over country.

And World Rugby believes developing closer ties between the two is an important first step.

"The fact that you create a relationship - not only with the player and the coaching staff at the club, and the owner," says Horne. 

"They understand this is the plan to the World Cup, this is what we're trying to achieve."  

But aware that big money talks, the Pacifc Players Association isn't as optimistic.

"Players are having to make tough decisions," says chief executive Aayden Clarke. "It's an ongoing thing, and we're trying to find solutions and get it right, because it's not quite right yet."

All Blacks icon Sir Michael Jones has heard it all before and is urging World Rugby to invest into the most important areas to ensure the same conversation isn't happening 10 years down the track.

"Development pathways and the game at the grassroots is critical," says the former Manu Samoa coach. "If you don't get that right and the programmes aren't funnelling players to the top, then you get that diminishing effect."

World Rugby hopes to avoid that to ensure Pacific passion can flourish in the future.


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