Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Islands struggle to find paradise

Two things were impossible not to notice during the All Blacks' European tour: the World Cup coming to England in 2015, and the influence of Pacific Island players.

Preparations for the next tournament are advancing well. Venues, kick-off times and the host broadcaster have been confirmed.

Some of the All Black management team will return to England early next year to review potential bases and training grounds and even this far out there is a sense England are going to do this well.

Ticket sales will be a breeze, no doubt, and commercially 2015 will be huge. The profile of rugby will lift enormously and all will seem rosy in the garden. That's a safe enough prediction.

But so too is it a safe prediction that once again the Pacific Islands will find they are victims of a global rugby market that wants only to exploit rather than support them.

Samoa, Tonga and Fiji had a hard time of it in November. Samoa were thumped by Ireland and squeezed by the French Barbarians. Tonga took a pounding from France and a lesser one from Wales, while Fiji were close against Italy. As they battled for form, results and cohesion, they would have rightfully felt shattered that around them - playing for different teams - were many countrymen.

Or at least men that could have been playing for them if the rest of the world wasn't so hellbent on pillaging. The headlines in England were stolen by the injured Manu Tuilagi before the All Black test, and by Billy Vunipola after it.

Tongan-born Toby Faletau was Wales' best player against South Africa.

The pattern showed up at the last World Cup where there were 120 players who were either born in the Islands or considered themselves Pacific Islanders: that's 20 per cent of all the players drawn from three tiny island nations whose combined population is barely a million.

That number will be higher again in 2015 but don't expect Fiji, Samoa or Tonga to be any more successful.

- NZ Herald

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