Fiji's Vatemo Ravouvou (left) and Amenoni Nasilasila celebrate after winning the final match of the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament in April.
Fiji's Vatemo Ravouvou (left) and Amenoni Nasilasila celebrate after winning the final match of the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament in April. Kin Cheung

Fiji to join Australia's top rugby competition

RUGBY UNION: Fiji will take an important step towards a spot in Super Rugby by joining Australia's domestic competition, the National Rugby Championship, in 2017.

Fiji will join the eight Australian teams: Brisbane City, Canberra Vikings, Country Eagles, Melbourne Rising, Perth Spirit, Queensland Country, Sydney Rays and Western Sydney Rams.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was in Sydney for the announcement of the deal, which will allow his country take part in the competition for four years and be funded by World Rugby.

Fiji's men's sevens team won gold at the recent Rio Olympics after consecutive World Series Sevens titles.

The team's former coach Ben Ryan last month criticised other countries for poaching Fiji's best players.

"They get a Super Rugby contract dangled in front of them and they don't then come back across to play for Fiji,” Ryan told the BBC.

"Australia's the same.

"In 10 years' time, if things don't change, I see an Australian side with half their team coming from the islands, at least.”

The announcement has been some months in the making, after Fiji coach John McKee approached the ARU's high-performance manager Ben Whitaker to discuss a way to improve the island nation's development pathway.

In a pre-cursor to the big move, a handful of Fijian players joined the NRC this year, including sevens Olympic gold medallist Vatemo Ravouvou and Fiji Warriors star Cyril Reece. 

Super Rugby boss Andy Marinos previously said he was open to the idea of a Pacific Island team joining the 18-team competition.



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