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Fijian Super Rugby franchise plans well advanced – report

Plans to establish a Super Rugby franchise in Fiji to stop top players leaving the Pacific Islands are well advanced and have over £20 million in backing, the Daily Telegraph  said yesterday.

The team would be based in a 20,000-seater stadium close to Fiji’s airport with four large international companies and two major kit manufacturers prepared to fund the project, the report said.

About 19 per cent of the world’s professional rugby players are originally from the Pacific Islands but many represent world champions New Zealand, Australia, France and England after qualifying under residency rules.

“I believe the impact of this plan would see Fiji win the World Cup one day,” said Ben Ryan, the English coach who led his adopted country to the Olympic sevens gold medal this year.

“We have shown in sevens what we can do and if you just look at the impact the Fiji players are having on the tier one countries, they are their star players in New Zealand, Australia, England and France.”

Some of the world’s largest companies with links to the Pacific Islands are supporting the plan,giving the potential new franchise more money than any other Super Rugby team.

“We could make them the best club side in the world. Imagine the talent we have got in France? They would all be on the first flight back,” Ryan said.

He has discussed the proposals with World Rugby which has set up a working group to review residency rules.

Fijian-born back-row forward Nathan Hughes made his England debut last weekend and could start against his home country in an international on Saturday.

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