Māori All Blacks v Moana Pasifika: Coach Tana Umaga urges Pacific development as Super Rugby priority

Moana Pasifika coach Tana Umaga thinks any Pacific side in Super Rugby must find a way to sustain the game in the islands.

Tomorrow's match against the Māori All Blacks will offer the first taste of what a Moana Pasifika side could look like at the next level.

Umaga's relishing his brief stint with the team and hopes their future is anything but, with the prospect of Super Rugby inclusion from 2022 very much alive.

If they do, the former All Blacks captain wants to see Pacific development put first.

"It's about sustainability, where does that come from," he tells Newshub. "For me it's about building that development pathway from the islands into Super Rugby."

The Pacific has long been calling for inclusion in professional rugby and Saturday's clash with the Māori will provide a good measure of how successful they could be.

Umaga wants his side to use their unity to their advantage, if they are to win.

"We all have a connection, because we're all Pacific Islanders and our stories are very similar," he says. "When we talk to each other, it's like to talking to someone who knows where we're from, we have that deeper connection."

If Moana Pasifika are involved in 2022, Umaga likely won’t be involved straight away, after committing to the Blues until then.

But one player who is keen is captain Michael Alaalatoa.

Michael Alaalatoa leads his Moana Pasifika side at training
Michael Alaalatoa leads his Moana Pasifika side at training. Photo credit: Photosport

"Pacific Islanders have given so much to rugby as a sport, especially in New Zealand, so I think, if there was an opportunity to come together and represent our people, it'd be awesome," Alaalatoa tells Newshub.

Umaga admits some water must still go under the bridge before the side is included, but the conversations are encouraging.

"If that does happen, I'd be very proud, as a Pacific Islander, that it will happen in my time."

Pacific rugby is ready to seize its opportunity to flourish.

Join us at 7pm Saturday for live updates of the Māori All Blacks v Moana Pasifika clash