LONDON, 16 SEPTEMBER 2015 (STUFF NZ) ----World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper has controversially dismissed allegations his organisation is not doing enough to assist tier-two nations.
Grumbles about the plight of the 10 second-tier countries, especially the Pacific Island nations of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga, have increased in the lead-up to the World Cup in England and Wales but Gosper says those concerns are unfounded.
Former Samoan lock Daniel Leo and International Rugby Players' Association boss Rob Nichol have been among the most vocal when calling out World Rugby on a variety of issues, including the topic of European clubs putting pressure on Pacific Islanders to make themselves unavailable for tests, compensation and allocating Samoa, Fiji and Tonga test matches on home soil.
Census Johnston, who recently joined Samoa for their World Cup campaign because prop Logovi'i Mulipola was injured, has joined Leo in saying players are put under pressure by their clubs to skip the World Cup.
Gosper, speaking at a World Rugby media conference in the lead-up to England facing Fiji in the opening World Cup match in London on Saturday morning, boasted the tournament is set to make a profit of around £150 million.
He noted World Rugby had invested £16 million in the Pacific Islands over the last four years. That included developing high performance centres, grooming specialist coaches and assisting with governance issues.
Many insiders say that is not nearly enough. They reckon World Rugby's reluctance to do more for tier-two nations is the elephant in the room.
Leo has stated the Pacific Nations Championship, which features six tier-two countries, benefits lower ranked teams Japan, United States and Canada more than the Pacific Island sides.
The best way forward for Pacific Island rugby is for them to play more meaningful games, more often. That, in turn, would encourage more of their players to make themselves available and strengthen their team.
But Gosper, having also noted World Rugby has pumped £53 million into the 10 tier-two countries over the last four years, doesn't see it that way.
“Yes, we do believe we are doing everything we can with the available money that we do have to invest in that region and tier-two countries in particular.”
On the issue of clubs refusing to offer contracts unless Pacific Island players agree to make themselves unavailable for the World Cup, Gosper was firm in his belief that no such problem existed.
“We don't believe that clubs are holding the players,” he said. “We have not had any cases brought to our attention where clubs are holding the players and if that is the case we are very successful at changing the situation.
“If you have any information that we don't, you are very welcome to forward it.”
When it was put to him that it was naive to think players would jeopardise their livelihood by dobbing in their clubs to World Rugby, Gosper remained sceptical.
“If there are any incidents of that, and it is true it is very hard to detect in some corners, we think they will be quite exceptional. It is true that there are players who take an economic view of their situation. It is very hard to detect.
“But generally our feeling is that is the case in very few situations in this World Cup.”
World Rugby should do more to compensate players from smaller unions, maintaining that players are taking a financial hit just to play in the World Cup.
Gosper said that wasn't World Rugby's problem: “We deal through our unions to ensure their players are well looked after as best they possibly can. We are not in the business of paying players directly from World Rugby. It is not our role,” he said...PACNEWS