One of the hottest topics currently trending in international rugby is the eligibility drama surrounding Pasifika rugby. The various issues have perhaps never been more evident than after the 102-0 thrashing of Tonga at the hands of the All Blacks.
As a result of such lopsided results, pressure continues to mount for World Rugby to reassess certain standards.
There has been no shortage of stories concerning the financial difficulties the island teams face just trying to field a team.
Team manager Lano Fonua has revealed that Tonga struggle at times to pay for the team kit to be washed. Further, Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu revealed that his northern hemisphere players had to contribute to their own quarantine costs.
“It is just a matter of working out how much we can actually give them. We don’t have much money to throw around at the best of times. So those boys who have got out of quarantine have paid for it out of their own pockets because they live in New Zealand, or are returning for holidays.”
“It is our situation. We have not asked for any more players to come over from Europe because we knew we could not cover it. We have been upfront. In the best of times, we struggle for our budget to cover our laundry, let alone all these extras in a Covid situation.”
In fact, due to Covid restrictions, 13 debutants lined up for Tonga’s first test since the 2019 World Cup. More than 20 players had declined the chance to join the tour.
Even after such a shocking loss, Kefu emphasized to The Breakdown that the desire is for talented Tongan players to chase All Black and Wallaby dreams. In fact, those who do often help boost the economies of their home country. However, there would still be a high demand for those just shy of that standard.
“What we want access to are probably the players that aren’t good enough to play for the All Blacks or the Wallabies. Those types of players would be very beneficial for us.”
Perhaps the biggest driver for the island nations going forward is gaining access to valuable tier-one players, such as Charles Piutau and George Moala, who could drastically change the rugby landscape.