The Cup 19 podcast: Polynesian rugby at risk unless lawmakers step up - Ofisa Tonu'u

When Manu Samoa shocked Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in 1991, Polynesian rugby announced to the world it was here to stay. 

That Rugby World Cup upset has stood the test of time, beaten only by Japan's memorable win over South Africa four years ago. 

The Samoan side that day featured future All Blacks Frank Bunce and Stephen Bachop, as well as world-class talent like Pat Lam, Brian Lima, Apollo Perelini and Peter Fatialofa.

Since that historic result, the World Cup has been plenty of Pacific brilliance, with Tonga, Fiji and Samoa upsetting tier-one nations like France, Argentina and Wales along the way.

But former Samoan and New Zealand international Ofisa Tonu'u believes those days could become distant memories, unless World Rugby makes serious changes.

The advent of professional rugby has seen the best Polynesian talent snapped up by big-spending European clubs, while the All Blacks and Wallabies have cherry-picked their fair share of players over the last two decades. 

Speaking to The Cup 19 podcast, Tonu'u calls for a change in eligibility laws or risk the death of Pacific island rugby. 

"There are hundreds [of players] in Europe, New Zealand and Australia, of course," Tonu'u says. "They are scattered all around the tier-one domestic competitions. 

"We have seen a few cases of French-based Polynesian players retiring from international rugby and that is causing some of the best players in the world to miss the Rugby World Cup - that's not a great look for the sport.

"I'd like to see that addressed and I'd really like to see the eligibility rules relaxed a little bit.

"There are a lot of players out there, who have only played a handful of tests for tier-one nations. I would like to see those players allowed the opportunity to play for the country of heritage. 

"It's been talked about in the past at World Rugby, but nothing ever seems to happen - a lot of hui's, but not much 'do-ees' [sic].

"This needs to be at the top of the agenda when you consider how fast the game is developing. Pacific nations will be left behind unless something gets done fast." 

For the full interview, listen above.


Join us for live updates of the 2019 Rugby World Cup from September 20.