Rugby: New Zealand won't turn back on Pacific Islands - Steve Tew

New Zealand Rugby supports the idea of a global rugby calendar, but not at the expense of the Pacific Islands.

Plans for a World League revealed on Thursday effectively shunned the likes of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga, with the USA and Japan set to join the Rugby Championship.

NZR chief executive Steve Tew stressed that no decisions on the future of the international game had been finalised and the leaked proposal was less than 24 hours old.

"We are all working hard to find a balance between a model that delivers what fans are demanding and the welfare of our  players, while at the same time ensuring we are preserving the integrity of rugby, and providing a pathway for the smaller and developing nations here in Oceania, but all around the world, to develop and participate.

"It is fair to say that taking all of that into account, managing multiple stakeholders is complex.

"We cannot go into the detail of any of the proposals, because there is a layer of commercial sensitivity to these discussions, as we are trying to introduce new capital to our game."

Former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry told The AM Show that a World League would effectively kill off the World Cup and ruin international rugby.

Henry believes the proposals being drafted by World Rugby are commercially biased, without thought for player welfare or developing rugby nations.

"I think the big problem is they're short of money, they need the money and this is a way to get the money, but they need the players to play the game and you need the support of the game," Henry said.

Steve Tew.
Steve Tew. Photo credit: Photosport

NZR's stance appears to match that of Henry and the players, who presented a united front through a statement damning the latest proposal on Thursday.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read was among the players quotes calling for World Rugby to maintain the integrity of the game.

Tew echoed that notion, making it clear that New Zealand wouldn't ignore the Pacific Islands.

"There  are some fundamentals that New Zealand Rugby has made very clear from the outset," Tew said.

"Any new competition must have a pathway for new and developing countries to join including our Pacific neighbours. That is not only fair and the right thing to do, but it also preserves the integrity of any competition.

"We cannot add to the workload burden of our players without making other adjustments and we are also mindful of the role of our other competitions, Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup.

"World Rugby have been proactive and bought an idea to the table, we have been refining it over several months and a positive spin-off has been some real commercial interest in backing it.

"Having said that, nothing has been decided, we have not agreed to anything at this stage and have always been working to the March World Rugby meetings as the next opportunity to discuss the details."

Tew re-iterated that NZR was fully committed to a global season and it looked forward to ongoing discussions.


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