World Rugby to help Pacific Island teams join Super Rugby in 2022

(Reuters) - World Rugby (WR) is set to spend 1.2 million pounds ($1.65 million) annually over three years on two Pacific Island teams to help them join Super Rugby in 2022, the sport's governing body said on Wednesday.

The support package will include administrative help to facilitate the entry of Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika into the competition, subject to New Zealand Rugby Board approval and key conditions being met.

Both franchises will also be supported by their respective unions and private equity funding.

"From a strategic perspective, it provides the best-possible platform and pathway for the islands to reach their potential," WR chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement

"On a human level, this is absolutely the right thing to do. It's great for the players, allowing them to make the choice for the first time to be part of a local professional team at the top level of elite club rugby."

Fijian Drua, launched in 2017, compete in the Australian National Rugby Championship and they won the title in 2018.

An invitational Moana Pasifika squad were beaten 28-21 by the Maori All Blacks in a one-off match last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic put paid to the intercontinental Super Rugby competition last year, prompting New Zealand and Australia to introduce domestic tournaments - Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU.

South Africa had voted last year to pull its four major franchises from Super Rugby and explore expanding their presence in the European PRO14 competition.

($1 = 0.7290 pounds)

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)

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