15 Oct 2016

Sport:Fiji to compete in Australia competition

11:12 am on 15 October 2016

World Rugby, The Australian Rugby Union and Fiji Rugby Union have announced a Fiji-based team will participate in Australia's Buildcorp National Rugby Championship in 2017.

"The Pacific Islands play a major role in the sport's heritage and future and World Rugby is committed to working with our friends and colleagues in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga to further assist them with the unique challenges that they face," said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont.

"Participation in the championship will not only provide a superb performance pathway leading in to Rugby World Cup 2019, but it provides locally based players with a strong alternative to playing club rugby overseas should they wish to remain in the Fijian system", he said.

"I would like to thank the Australian Rugby Union for embracing this opportunity and enabling Fiji to participate in the National Rugby Championship from next year."

"I would also like to thank the Fiji Rugby Union for their full commitment to making this happen. It will be a major milestone for the sustainable growth of Fijian rugby," he said.

World Rugby's Executive Committee had paved the way with the approval of a financial package to underwrite participation.

Fiji were one of the stand-out performers within a tough pool at Rugby World Cup 2015, with the set piece and discipline a highlight. Fiji finished the tournament with the best scrum statistics.

Speaking at the announcement in Sydney, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama welcomed the development.

"On behalf of the Fiji Rugby Union, my Government and the people of Fiji, I would like to thank World Rugby and the Australian Rugby Union. We are looking at our participation with great enthusiasm since we strongly believe it will create new pathways for our players and coaches," he said.

"We are incredibly excited to welcome Fiji into the Buildcorp NRC and thank World Rugby for supporting both the ARU and FRU in helping to make this a reality for next season," said ARU CEO Bill Pulver.

"The Fiji brand of Rugby is arguably the most exciting brand of Rugby in the world and their inclusion in the Buildcorp NRC will enhance the competition both in terms of the quality of Rugby and by adding a huge amount of support and interest from the Fijian communities both in Fiji and here in Australia." Mr Pulver said.

"Most importantly, with a team based in Fiji playing in the Buildcorp NRC, talented young Rugby players in Fiji will have an opportunity to play in a quality national competition without having to relocate from Fiji to pursue their aspirations to play high-level Rugby," he said.

Planning for the Fijians' inaugural season is well under way with the FRU working towards building a playing roster of up to 30 players and locking in venues for the team's home matches.