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World Rugby details increased investment in Pacific Islands teams

World Rugby today (Thursday) announced details of an increased investment into Fiji, Tonga and Samoa in co-operation with Pacific Rugby Players, the body representing players in the region, while the sport’s global governing body has again defended its under-fire bidding process for the 2023 World Cup.

The precarious financial position of Pacific Island nations has again come under the spotlight amid concerns surrounding the Samoa Rugby Union (SRU). As the Pacific teams tour the northern hemisphere for the November window, World Rugby has today confirmed that direct and indirect support for the unions and their national teams is estimated at more than £20m (€22.6m/$26.2m) for the current four-year cycle spanning 2016-19, up 19 per cent.

World Rugby said the enhanced investment is targeted towards the respective high-performance programmes and World Cup campaigns of the three unions, aimed at closing the performance gap to the top-ranked teams ahead of Japan 2019.

The investment includes “significant” support for world-class coaching and technical advisors and improvements in strength and conditioning, sports science and medicine. It also includes a range of player welfare initiatives, in partnership with Pacific Rugby Players, the official representative body of the players of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and a member body of the International Rugby Players' Association (IRPA).

Specifically, for the November tests, the funding programme includes all player insurance costs, squad assembly costs including flights to Europe from each of the Pacific Islands and internal flights across the window. World Rugby said the total investment it will manage for the benefit of Samoa will top £1.5m in 2017.

World Rugby general manager for high performance, Peter Horne, said: “In the 2016-19 cycle, World Rugby will invest an estimated £20.3m in programmes for Fiji, Tonga and Samoa which is an increase of 19 per cent on the last cycle.

“This programme is reaping benefits with the outstanding performances of the Flying Fijians this year as well as the World Rugby-funded Fijian Drua, competing in Australia’s National Rugby Championship as a pathway for local players. Tonga’s win against Italy last November was a big push towards their Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification and we’d love to see similar results from them and Samoa this November.

“As we work towards RWC 2019, we need to ensure the three Pacific Island teams are as competitive as possible and this increase in world-class staffing and support will really benefit the squads.”

In other news, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper (pictured) has maintained that the bid process for the 2023 World Cup is “robust” adding that it needed to be implemented amid the enhanced scrutiny on bidding for major sports events.

South Africa is seemingly poised to land the 2023 World Cup after World Rugby last week announced that it had unanimously recommended the country’s bid for its showpiece national team competition ahead of rival offers from France and Ireland.

The World Rugby Council will now meet on November 15 in London to consider the recommendation and vote on the next host following the 2019 event in Japan. The decision has been met with strong criticism from both France and Ireland, but Gosper told UK broadcaster Sky Sports: “We had a process which was designed at a time when there were all sorts of things happening in the sporting world, with the issues around Fifa and so on, so we designed a process which would limit any horse trading and extraneous issues happening outside of the absolute value and merit of those different candidates.”

The RWCL Board made its recommendation following detailed consideration of the host candidate evaluation report. South Africa received an overall score of 78.97 per cent to 75.88 for France and 72.25 for Ireland, based on a selection of weighted criteria.

Gosper added: “We're very confident that our process actually is robust and stands up to any scrutiny. Let’s be fair, all three of these countries can put on a magnificent World Cup, everyone qualifies in that sense, however there has been a points winner and that is the recommendation of the World Rugby board.

“We wanted two things. We wanted to make sure we were in a position of negotiation and tension in terms of competition between three countries to provide the best possible World Cup at the highest price. Because actually, the revenues that come out of these World Cups is what funds the development of the sport around the world.

“We've achieved that. We've got three countries who could host an amazing World Cup at almost twice what we received in surplus from the England World Cup in 2015. This has been a very successful process.”