World Rugby has announced details of the new strategy for its High-Performance Combine in the Pacific Islands, focusing on identifying, developing and investing in domestic Pacific Island talent to participate at Rugby World Cup 2023 and 2027.
Launched in 2018, 51 players have graduated from the High Performance Combines in the Pacific Islands of which 13 players were prepared for international rugby with Frank Lomani (Fiji) and James Faiva (Tonga) progressing to star at Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.
The World Rugby-funded programme gives emerging talent access to some of the world’s best coaches and strength and conditioning experts, preparing players for the modern elite rugby environment. The programme is delivered in cooperation with the Pacific Rugby Players who assist to deliver wellbeing and personal development workshops.
Players are assessed and evaluated at the conclusion of the Combine by World Rugby’s High-Performance consultants with the programme’s elite being offered an opportunity to be placed within the world’s elite competitions. World Rugby’s Scholarship programme has seen players placed into teams with the Gallagher Premiership, Global Rapid Rugby, Mitre 10, Major League Rugby, PRO14, Superliga Americana de Rugby and Super Rugby.
The new four-year cycle begins with the Pacific Combine in Suva, Fiji, on 15-18 March, which is hosted immediately after the World Rugby Pacific Challenge 2020 (6-14 March). The programme will run annually with the aim to nurture test-level talents and reflects World Rugby’s wider commitment to support Pacific Islands unions.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Greater depth of competition at Rugby World Cup is dependent on robust strategies to lift high performance and the Pacific Challenge, combined with the Pacific Combine, is a proven developer and enabler of Pacific Island talent, creating a pathway to international rugby. I would like to wish everyone involved in this project the very best of luck.”
A twin programme in the Americas
A twin project will offer a similar long-term vision on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Working closely with Rugby Canada and USA Rugby, the North America Combine will aim to identify prospective talents and invite them to participate in both unions high-performance academies, the Pacific Pride (Canada) and the USA Rugby National Academy (USA).
Following the North America Combine, which is scheduled for 21-27 June in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, selected players will be offered full-time scholarships in their union’s high-performance academy system.
The immersion and exposure of academy level players into high-performance environments will fast track the development of targeted players while increasing the domestic North American player pool available for Major League Rugby (MLR) teams. By increasing the competitiveness and quality of the MLR, the programme will enhance the high-performance outcomes of both Canada and the USA national teams.
World Rugby Vice-Chairman and Americas Rugby President Agustín Pichot said: “The development of a truly global game requires a global vision for the development and promotion of the best emerging talent from unions where a high-performance programme is hard to access.
“The North America Combine is an innovative and exciting programme that does not just identify talent. It nurtures and supports players on and off the field, providing a club and a community that supports a player in being the best they can be as a person and as a player.”
World Rugby General Manager High-Performance Peter Horne said: “The High-Performance Combine programme is an amazing opportunity for Pacific Islands and North America to identify and develop the most promising talents in their region.
“The Combine has proven its effectiveness with successful alumni making it to the highest level and we are delighted to renew our commitment with a long-term vision that will increase unions’ competitiveness.”