Nations Championship would be game-changing for Fiji – Ryan

Ben Ryan says the proposed Nations Championship can be “game-changing” for Fiji and vital for the development of rugby union in the Pacific Island nation.

World Rugby has laid out plans for the introduction of a new global competition in 2022.

Fiji and Japan would join countries that compete in the Rugby Championship and Six Nations, with the competition split into two conferences and the top two teams meeting in the final.

Ryan says the changes, which are yet to be agreed by unions, could take rugby in Fiji to another level.

The country’s former sevens coach told Omnisport: “I think it would be amazing for Fiji if an agreement is reached for the Nations Championship because the financial benefits would be game-changing.

“Having four or five huge Tests at home would boost the economy hugely and generate massive interest amongst the people of Fiji. 

“The additional finance that would come with this hopefully being signed off would enable Fijian rugby to take the next step, potentially building a new stadium and the possibility of having a team in one of the bigger leagues.

“It is interesting times. Presuming Super Rugby is still going in five or six years’ time then maybe that could be possibility [to have a team from Fiji in the competition].

“If the changes are passed it would surely just be a matter of when, not if, there was a side from Fiji in a major league.

“This is an important time for union in Fiji because rugby league is a major threat, with a lot of interest in the NRL and increasing support for league.”

Fiji fans will be out in force over the next few days at the Hong Kong Sevens – an event the country has won four years in succession – and Ryan believes the link between sevens rugby and the 15-man format is still hugely important in the country.

“I don’t think it has changed much since I was there, in that I would watch amateur matches and look to see if anyone catches the eye. I would work closely with John McKee [coach of the 15-a-side team] and we would go into each other’s camps.” said Ryan, who masterminded Fiji’s Olympic glory in Rio and two Sevens World Series titles. 

“There was never a shortage of talent and I know that is still the case. Fijians love sevens and it can be a great way to bring players through.”

As the 2019 Hong Kong Sevens got under way on Friday, HSBC released a new film exploring the reputation of the event through the eyes of the legions of fans who attend the tournament every year from Fiji. The documentary, part of HSBC’s ongoing mission to support the growth of rugby sevens, can be viewed here: News wire is powered by opta

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