Tonga Rugby chairman Epi Taione has accused World Rugby of being out-of-touch colonialists and told the governing body to give the Pacific Island nations the same money and voting rights as the sport’s elite.
Tonga were upset 17-10 by Georgia in their Rugby World Cup Group C opener last week, with former back-row forward Taione blaming a lack of funds from the governing body for their woes.
“They want us to compete but we get $1.58m a year, while Argentina, New Zealand and the other SANZAR (South Africa and Australia) countries have received $18m before the tournament,” he said.
“The money should be evenly distributed. And we still only get one vote for all of the Pacific Island members. It should be Tonga one vote, Samoa one vote, Fiji one vote. I cannot see how our voice will be heard.”
A World Rugby spokesman denied that the sport’s governing body has treated the Pacific Islands nations unfairly.
“World Rugby is fully committed to the development and sustainability of rugby in the Pacific Islands and works tirelessly in partnership with our unions to close the performance gap at Test level and ensure robust administrative structures,” he said.
Tonga take on Namibia in Exeter on Tuesday, but with heavyweights Argentina and New Zealand still to come, another group-stage exit looks on the cards.
“Rugby is so out-of-touch,” said Taione. “It’s run by colonialists who still think they run the world like it was 100 years ago. Until they’re willing to give up power, nothing will change. Until they evenly distribute the resources, they’re going nowhere. Considering the way we’re treated, we compete very well.”
In response, World Rugby pointed out that it has invested £16m in Pacific Islands rugby over the past four years, funding specialist coaching support, competition structures and administrative programmes.
Sunday Indo Sport