Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga has expressed his enthusiasm about the possibility of a Pasifika team entering Super Rugby in 2022 after revealing the invitational squad to take on the Maori All Blacks in December.
Umaga was appointed coach for the one-off fixture by the Moana Pasifika side, which has been deemed by New Zealand Rugby as a potential new entrant to Super Rugby next year, along with a Fijian team.
The former New Zealand centre named 18 players with Super Rugby experience in a 26-man squad for the match at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium. Nine of the squad for 5 December are full internationals.
“We’re very excited about [the match] and what could come after,” the Auckland Blues assistant coach told TVNZ on Tuesday.
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“At this stage, it really is about this one-off game, but it’s something that I know means a lot to a lot of people, especially our young players and our players coming through.
“When I reached out to them and asked them if they’re interested… everyone was straight in.
“This is, hopefully, the start of something bigger.”
Many of the players named for the Maori All Blacks game are already on Super Rugby teams, meaning any potential Moana Pasifika recruits would need to come from further afield, although Umaga doubted that would be an issue.
“I’ve been all over the world playing rugby, coaching rugby and it’s funny – you’ll go to the smallest corners in France, in Asia and you’ll find Pacific Islanders playing there and you’ll wonder how they got there,” he said.
“They’ve integrated into those communities and a lot of them will stay there, because it’s good for their families.
“[So] in my eyes, there has to be a development programme – something that’s robust enough that they can actually get opportunities to develop their rugby players.”
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