Moana Pasifika has revealed some key details about their squad, including the eligibility rules for players wanting to join the new franchise.
It was announced last week Moana Pasifika along with Fijian Drua had been given a conditional licence to join the likes of the Blues and Crusaders next year in a new competition as long as Rugby Australia, whose Super Rugby teams will also feature, agree to the expansion as well.
It’s assumed Rugby Australia will come on board with the two teams believed to be the first big step in forming a professional pathway for rugby players in the Pacific Islands.
That means the countdown has already begun for the likes of Moana Pasifika general manager Kevin Senio, who now has less than a year to form the team’s first professional squad.
With the formation though comes rules around eligibility, which Senio outlined on The Breakdown last night.
Senio confirmed 80 per cent of Moana Pasifika would either be already playing for Pacific Islands nations such as Samoa or Tonga, meaning up to just eight of their 38-strong squad can play for the likes of the All Blacks or Wallabies at international level.
“What we've done is use the New Zealand model and flicked it on its head,” Senio said.
“Eighty per cent of the team will have to be eligible and/or have played for Samoa, Tonga or Fiji.
“For those [80 per cent] who are going to aligning themselves into Moana Pasifika, you can’t play for the All Blacks or Australia.”
Senio said Moana Pasifika would play some home games in Apia but they would primarily be based in South Auckland.
Senio added Moana Pasifika players would be on the same pay scale as those in New Zealand Super Rugby franchises and the search for a coach to lead the team was underway.
“There are a number of candidates who are probably quite obvious who are out there in the market and who have expressed interest,” he said.
“We are just trying to work through that with a committee and a panel once we have shortlisted those names.
“In terms of players, that’s the discussion we're having now with agents, and also the nationals unions such as Samoa and Tonga
“This team needs to be competitive, so it’s a balance of having established players and those who are overseas that can help this team in terms of performance.
"The other part is ...to connect into the high-performance environments up in Tonga and Samoa and look at their existing programmes.
"In terms of identifying talent, that’s who we are going to connect into.”