Enthusiasm for Pacific 'Ring of Fire' tournament

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 15/06/2012

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An international "Ring of Fire" annual rugby tournament is being proposed for Taranaki by a group of Maori and Pacific Island identities.

Headed by former Wallabies international Tavita Ngata and including Salevi Tiatia, Jack Kirifi, Koli Tuiraviravi and Veni Uhila, with the backing of Taranaki Rugby chief executive Neil Pennington, the group plans to have an annual tournament played in February.

While the tournament is likely to kick off in October this year with three teams – Pasifika Barbarians, Taranaki Maori and a Wainuiomata Samoan selection – the plan is to include developing Pacific Island rugby nations such as Tahiti, Guam and Hawaii in the future.

"With the way the environment is at the moment, we think it's an ideal time to make it happen," Ngata said.

"We've had a lot of interest from around the country about moving the idea forward.

"We also see it as a festival to celebrate cultures."

Ngata said the dream was to offer players the opportunity to compete on an international level below that of the International Rugby Board's Pacific Cup.

"Probably the most important thing is the style of rugby we are trying to encourage," Ngata said.

"We want to promote the running game, as we remember it, and we want to bring back rucking.

"Everyone we talk to gets excited when we talk about rucking and running rugby."

Tiatia thought the annual tournament would also give club players in Taranaki an opportunity to play at a higher level.

Talks have already been held with representatives in several countries who have given the proposal their initial backing.

Pennington "loves" the idea and was quite happy for the Taranaki union to help out where it could.

"Anything that brings high level rugby to the province is great for us and great for Taranaki.

"These guys have blown me away," Pennington said. "Every couple of weeks they come in and they have progressed it.

"I have to make it clear, though, that we're [Taranaki Rugby] not funding it.

"We're providing services and I'm providing some expertise over the top of it."

Pennington believed nations such as Tahiti and Guam could attract funding from the IRB to participate in the tournament.

He also felt Taranaki Rugby could provide development advice to players arriving to take part.

The group were also confident they could attract established Pasifika teams from Auckland and Wellington to the tournament next year.

"One thing we are very encouraged by is the enthusiasm of the people we are talking to," Ngata said. "Where there is a will, there is a way and we intend to grow this idea."

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The group is inviting all Pasifika rugby players in Taranaki to a meeting at the Tukapa Rugby Club on Wednesday, June 27, at 6.30pm to discuss their proposal.

- Taranaki Daily News

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