RUGBY UNION: Fiji could win the Rugby World Cup if it gets its own Super Rugby franchise, says the man who led the country to Olympic gold.
In a bold bid to stop top players leaving the Pacific Islands, plans are well under way to establish a local team in the elite rugby union competition with a reported $A32 million in backing.
The proposed team would be based in a 20,000-seater stadium near Fiji's airport with News Ltd reporting four large international companies and two major kit manufacturers are prepared to fund the project.
Roughly 19% of the world's professional rugby players are originally from the Pacific Islands but have been lost to other nations such as world champions New Zealand, Australia, France and England, qualifying under residency rules.
"I believe the impact of this plan would see Fiji win the World Cup one day,” said Ben Ryan, the English coach who led his adopted country to sevens gold in Rio this year.
"We have shown in sevens what we can do and if you just look at the impact the Fiji players are having on the tier-one countries, they are their star players in New Zealand, Australia, England and France.
"It is not pie in the sky.
"Pick a world XV from the players that are playing outside Fiji and Samoa in the other international teams and you would get a team that is there or thereabouts.
"We could make them the best club side in the world. Imagine the talent we have got in France. They would all be on the first flight back.
"Ever since I went to the island I've been thinking about how we get Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to be consistent World Cup quarter-finalists and knocking on the doors of the semi-finals.
"The No.1 thing is to have a Super Rugby franchise. It is the simplest way of doing it. It sends the strongest message and would reap the quickest results.”