Pacific rugby minnows call for funding boost

The President of the Cook Islands Rugby Union says a major funding boost is required if smaller Pacific nations are to become more competitive on the international stage.

The Cook Islands suffered an upset defeat against Tahiti last weekend in Rarotonga in the Oceania Cup, ending their faint Rugby World Cup hopes at the first hurdle.

It was the first time the team had played together since conceding more than 100 points against Fiji in a world cup qualifier three years ago.

Tahiti had also been inactive since finishing second at the last Oceania Cup in 2015.

The CIRU's Moana Moeka'a said they simply don't play enough.

"Outside of the so-called big three it's very hard," Moeka'a said.

"Funding in terms of getting players, funding in terms of travel. The travel is very costly in the Oceania or Pacific region, so it's very difficult to play regularly.

"If we do want to play regularly, especially 15s, then we've got to sort something out so we're actually doing it all the time, instead of two or three games every two or three years," he said.

In some respects, the Cook Islands are among the lucky ones with Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and American Samoa having declined to even enter a team in the Oceania Cup.

Moeka'a said the issues were discussed at the Oceania Rugby AGM in July.

"We've just had the Oceania Cup. We've got the Oceania Sevens, which is really our flagship tournament, but you could say most of the costs associated with that are paid for by Oceania Rugby but then later on in the year you have the Mini Games in Vanuatu and also there was supposed to be the Youth Olympics qualifier for sevens for under 18s but I believe that's going to be postponed to next year some time," he said.

The CIRU president said some of the things they talked about was how to assist member unions, especially the smaller ones, in some way so they can get out and play.

Moeka'a said the difference with sevens and 15s is obviously numbers so it's a bit easier for a lot of the smaller member unions to travel when you've only got 10 or 12 players to pay for, or 15 including management.

"It's different with the 15s you have up to 31 or you could have one or two extras as well".

The Cook Islands will now dissect where it all went wrong while Tahiti face an Asian qualifier next year in a home and away playoff for a spot in the final World Cup repackage event.



Photo: Oceania Rugby / Sportography Tahiti beat the Cook Islands in Rarotonga