Moana Pasifika will take a step closer to being part of Super Rugby in 2022 when New Zealand Rugby's board puts the team's entry proposal under scrutiny next week and is expected to give it a provisional green light.
Expectations are high that Moana - through a combination of broadcast income, World Rugby funding and private investment - has secured access to the $10m of annual revenue it needs to satisfy NZR that it can be financially self-sufficient and take a place in an expanded Super Rugby competition next year.
Moana is understood to have attracted a range of private investors and has spent the last month working through which would be the most appropriate fit and best long-term partner for a club that is likely to have a strong following in Australia, as well as the West coast of the USA.
If there are open borders next year, or at least travel bubbles that don't require extended managed quarantine periods, Super Rugby's ambition is to revert to a 12-team competition that will feature five teams from New Zealand, five from Australia, Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua.
NZR's board meets on Monday and is hoping it will receive from Moana and the Drua comprehensive paperwork that satisfies all the entry criteria that has been set.
The two new sides have to prove they can independently and sustainably fund themselves and also put genuinely competitive teams on the park each week.
Super Rugby crumbled under the weight of ill-conceived expansion plans between 2006 and 2019 – a result of allowing too many poorly prepared and under-resourced teams to enter the competition.
Having seen how new teams can act as a dead weight, pulling down the overall quality and financial viability of the competition, New Zealand Rugby is determined to ensure that both Moana and Fijian Drua are set up to succeed, which in the case of the former has required elongated discussion around player eligibility, development pathways and recruitment plans.
Some of the finer details are yet to be resolved but a broad agreement has been reached that players who sign for Moana will do so with the intention of making themselves available to play for Samoa or Tonga depending on their eligibility.
World Rugby's funding - $2.3 million (£1.2m) a year for each club – has been made on the basis it is effectively channelled towards the high-performance pathways of both Samoa and Tonga.
The global governing body is making the investment because it can see how supporting Moana and the Drua will ultimately lead to the three national teams of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji becoming stronger and being able to better compete at future World Cups which is a stated long-term goal of World Rugby.
Moana will, therefore, mostly consist of players whose eligibility has already been captured by Samoa or Tonga and players whose intention it is to play for those two nations.
While Moana will be based in South Auckland and likely play the bulk of their games there – although there are plans to occasionally play in Apia and or Nuku'alofa – it won't have an academy based in New Zealand.
Instead, the club will run an academy in the islands and look to identify and nurture the bulk of its players in Samoa and Tonga and then bring them to New Zealand once they are deemed to be ready for Super Rugby.
It is understood there will be leeway for Moana to recruit a small – to be determined – number of players whose eligibility has already been captured by New Zealand, Australia or any other Tier One nation.
That means someone such as Ardie Savea, who has expressed interest in the new side, would be allowed to leave the Hurricanes, play for Moana and still be eligible for the All Blacks.
The Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy, who are both in England's Six Nations squad, have also said they would be interested in exploring a potential move should Moana gain a Super Rugby licence.
These sorts of high profile, experienced players would provide invaluable contributions to Moana and hence there is a desire to make at least one marquee signing in a proposed squad of 37 ahead of next year.
But despite the agreed framework around which Moana will operate, NZR is aware that there will inevitably be competition for dual-eligible players who come through New Zealand's development programmes, while some playing for Moana will attract the attention of the All Blacks.
While these are issues which will ultimately require solutions, they won't derail Moana's bid for inclusion. NZR will instead work through more detailed plans once the club has been granted a licence.