Yalden: Islands tournament is the way to go

NIGEL YALDEN
Last updated 05:00 17/05/2014

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In June (or July in the unlikely event the IRB see reason and move their international test window) of 2017, the New Zealand Rugby Union is going to make a ridiculous amount of money, bordering on obscene.

OPINION: Let's be unashamedly mercenary about this; a modern British and Irish Lions tour is a licence to print cash and you would be incredibly naive to think that NZRU isn't going to do everything in its power to the wring every last cent out of it.

Now if you will allow me to briefly digress back to the present, this week it was (finally) confirmed that the All Blacks would play the USA in Chicago this November.

And as has become the norm, it was followed by an outcry from those who continue to campaign for the All Blacks to play test match rugby in the Pacific Islands.

Of the group that champion this cause, only a select few are doing so for just reasons and with a true understanding of all aspects of the story; political, sporting, economic and social.

Some support the cause because they feel the need to been seen supporting it, others view it as nothing more than a story, while some see it as a way getting their work to pay for them to go to Samoa, Tonga or Fiji in June rather than Dunedin or Hamilton.

For the record, I'm very much a fence sitter on this matter.

While it would be great to see the All Blacks, who have had so many great players of Pacific Island heritage wear the celebrated Black jersey, play tests in the Islands, I worry that hosting the All Blacks will create a short term benefit that does nothing tangible to help the issues the afore mentioned "select few" are so conscious of.

Having stated that, let me now take you back to the future and put the following proposal out there for public consumption.

Having made a bucket load of dosh, thanks to the Lions tour midyear, I suggest the All Blacks skip the now traditionally end-of-year tour to the Northern Hemisphere in November 2017, in favour of hosting "The Islands Championship" a quadrangular tournament involving themselves, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

In the first instance, I would rather New Zealand host this tournament because NZRU has the wherewithal to make this a profitable venture for all four unions, especially in terms of negotiating and selling of the international TV rights, but ultimately I would like to see this championship played in the midyear international window directly after Rugby World Cup years from 2020 onwards, with the six tests per tournament spread around the four countries.

Yes, that is quite a lengthy timeframe. My view is that certain things need to change in Pacific Island rugby, particularly around the governance of the sport, for this concept to be truly beneficial.

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That change is not going to take place overnight, just like helping Pacific Island rugby isn't as simple as the All Blacks playing a test in Apia, Suva or Nuku'alofa.

Nigel Yalden is a Waikato-based sports commentator for Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport

- Waikato Times

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