Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: This is bigtime for island nations

Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders is tackled by Shaun Stevenson of the Chiefs during their round one Super Rugby match. Photo / Getty
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders is tackled by Shaun Stevenson of the Chiefs during their round one Super Rugby match. Photo / Getty

Taking Super rugby games to places like Fiji tonight broadens the reach of the competition. But does it broaden the appeal enough for the competition bosses?

Chiefs, Crusaders and rugby fans in the Pacific will tune in to the duel in Suva as the series moves into its three game sprint to the playoffs. While those debates will playout so will talk about the tournament format.

It was encouraging to hear Sanzaar boss Andy Marinos discussing ideas around the shape of the competition and ways to bump up the fractured fervor about the tournament. There is no doubt about levels of excitement which will envelop Suva today and through the aftermath of tonight's match.

This is big time for the island nation with broadcasters sending pictures and words around the globe to showcase their piece of paradise.

Everyone gets a slice of the economic pie for this game however opponents of this venture say places like Fiji and Samoa cannot deliver sustained economic benefits to justify joining the New Zealand, Australian, South African, Argentine and Japanese partners.

However Marinos points to the quality of Pacific Island rugby as a decent counter to some of the modest quality from teams at the lower end of the 18 team conference-format competition.

Most of us in this part of the world will watch with great interest. It's in our time frame, these are two fine teams scrapping for top spot in their pool, we are interested to see the reaction in Suva and it's a welcome resumption after a month interlude.

Viewers in other parts of the globe may not agree but they probably wouldn't be watching anyway. There will be some Chiefs and Crusaders diehards lamenting the clip out of their domestic seat but they'll be watching.

This is the foundation. If all goes well, the next step is a Pacific side in a slimmed down round-robin competition. Then we'll be talking real rugby progress.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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