WELLINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Former All Blacks great Bryan Williams has expressed his disappointment at the decision by New Zealand Rugby to delay the introduction of a Pacific Islands-focussed team into Super Rugby.
NZR chairman Brent Impey said on Thursday they would delay expanding their domestically-centred Super Rugby Aotearoa until at least 2022, while they were not yet convinced of the feasibility of a Pasifika team on or off the field.
Williams, who played 75 matches -- 38 of which were tests -- for New Zealand in the 1970s, was involved in the Moana Pacific syndicate that had expressed interest in joining the competition.
“I guess we are just really disappointed by NZR that they said Pasifika didn’t front up,” Williams told the New Zealand Herald on Sunday. “That we couldn’t show we had a competitive rugby team or the commercial wherewithal to put it together.
“We are a bit flabbergasted by that, to be honest.”
Williams was born in New Zealand but has Samoan heritage and been a strong advocate for Pasifika players for more than 30 years.
He also coached Samoa for three years in the 1990s and led them to victory over Wales at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
“Quite frankly, Pasifika rugby has never really thrived since that time,” Williams told Stuff Media on Sunday.
“Then, we had Fiji and Samoa making quarter-finals of the World Cup. We were right up there.”
Williams said a Pasifika team would be feasible financially and would build depth by attracting players back from European clubs and developing upcoming talent.
Having a sixth team in Super Rugby Aotearoa next year would also attract significant support from New Zealand’s Pasifika communities, he said.
“We’ve got to get this off the ground 25 years after it should have happened,” he added to Stuff Media.
“I’ve been involved in rugby for a long time and this is too good an opportunity to let slip by.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Shri Navaratnam
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