A joint partnership between World Rugby, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga has been set up to create opportunities for Pacific Island rugby players in securing semi-professional and professional contracts in Super Rugby, Mitre 10 and the National Rugby Championship.
The five day training camp which concluded last Friday in Fiji comprised 30 under 23-year-olds from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, who played in the World Rugby Pacific Challenge last year.
The association’s Aayden Clarke said the combine taught players how to deal with contracts, agents and life as an overseas based professional.
He said the association is advising the players about the contracts on offer.
“There’s some good ones too. Fantastic opportunities for the players. That’s the process that we are working through now as they show interest and also the next week or two will be critical for that,” Clarke said.
“It is not just a financial decision for the players. It is a whole raft of factors around whether its going to be the opportunity that they should take or not.”
Clarke said young players from the Pacific often take overseas contracts without doing their due diligence.
“At the moment we spend a lot of time and resource supporting players who have done that and found themselves in a bit of a sticky situation.
“There is a long list of things that can happen in an environment where a player feels a bit isolated, gets injured or is just lacking the usual support that they have from their family,” he said.
“We have young players who leave overseas on a promise that they got on Facebook messenger with nothing really solid around what is going to be happening once they arrive in a different part of the world, so that is a big concern for us”.
“This is the opportunity for us to try and prevent having to put in the intensive work later on down the track.”
World Rugby general manager Peter Horne says the selected players have been identified by overseas rugby unions and clubs.
“We are helping them connect with those clubs and World Rugby is providing a relocation package which supports the player to engage with the club and a relocation allowance to support them to have a soft landing,” Horne said.
“So one key thing that we are worried about is ensure that a player from a Pacific Island heritage integrates really well in the right club the right environment,” he said.
“They can then actually develop as a rugby player, go on to higher honours in the future, potentially playing for the national program again and going to the world cup.”
Horne said the combine model has been borrowed from professional sporting codes in America.