It turns out that Western Samoa's shock victory against Wales at the 1991 World Cup wasn't actually the beginning of the Pacific Islands' rugby voyage, but the end.

In hindsight, it might have been better for all the Island nations if Samoa hadn't so dramatically toppled a Five Nations heavyweight with such compelling explosive rugby that, as now has become clear, didn't endear them to rugby's established order.

Samoa embarrassed Wales in 1991 and scared the living daylights out of the other Home Unions in the process and they and the rest of the Pacific nations have been paying for it ever since.

What Samoa did in 1991 was highlight the threat they posed to the Celtic nations in particular.


Rugby was changing from a contact to a collision sport and the kick-chase game preferred in the North was being exposed as no longer fit for international purpose.

Samoa captured the public imagination with their ball-in-hand, dynamic and explosive running game and it was obvious that the arrival of professionalism could be the basis on which the Island nations shot up the world rankings.

Wales, having suffered the indignity of losing to Samoa once, didn't fancy that becoming a regular thing and nor did the Scots or Irish like the sound of there being three strong, well-funded Pacific nations harnessing their immense pool of natural talent.

This could be dismissed as conspiratorial nonsense were it not for the extraordinary evidence that has accumulated in the past 25 years that suggests there has been an influential lobby within World Rugby working against the Pacific Nations.

Where to start on this? Perhaps the 1995 World Cup when many of the Samoan players came off the field after their quarter-final loss to South Africa with nasty bite marks.

No one in authority wanted to know about that. No one wanted to investigate.

Wales could not match the challenge of Samoa at the 1991 World Cup. Photo / Getty Images
Wales could not match the challenge of Samoa at the 1991 World Cup. Photo / Getty Images

In 2003, England played a pool game against Samoa where they had 16 players on the field for a minute. World Rugby fined them a paltry $20,000 and said the incident had no bearing on the game.

In 2004, New Zealand took an eligibility proposal to World Rugby to allow players who had been capped by a Tier One nation to serve a one-year stand down and then play for a Tier Two nation.


The big winners of the change would have been the Pacific Island nations as a huge number of former All Blacks would be able to stand down and then play for either Fiji, Samoa or Tonga.

The Celts block voted to kill it.

At the 2007 World Cup, the cash-strapped Tongan team who were staying in $80-a-night accommodation and borrowing kit from local rugby clubs, wanted to dye their hair green for their game against England to thank a sponsor for funding a pre-tournament training camp.

World Rugby warned them they would be fined if they did and yet the French backs turned up at the 1995 World Cup with peroxide blond hair and goatee beards and nothing was said.

At the 2011 World Cup, Samoan wing Alesana Tuilagi was fined $10,000 by World Rugby for wearing a branded mouth-guard.

At the same tournament, England were found guilty of switching match balls during a game against Romania – an act of cheating and yet they were exonerated by World Rugby.

At the 2015 World Cup, Australia refused to accept a request by the Welsh Rugby Union for their pool match to be played in Cardiff.

World Rugby agreed, saying that as Wales weren't the hosts despite the Millennium Stadium being one of the tournament venues, it wouldn't be fair or appropriate for the game to be in Cardiff.

But World Rugby had no problem with Fiji playing a pool game against Wales in Cardiff.

They also had no problem with Fiji playing all four pool games in 18 days as opposed to the 22 that was afforded to England, Wales and Australia.

And now, perhaps the most compelling evidence of a Pacific Island conspiracy is staring everyone in the face with a proposal to create a World League that doesn't feature Fiji.

The Fijians are ranked ninth in the world and yet there is no plan to include them in the new World League for the top 12 nations in the game.

The USA are ranked 13th and yet they are in and, while everyone knows the answer why Fiji have once again been shafted, World Rugby haven't bothered to communicate it. It hasn't explained how it is they have been ousted from the original proposal.

Last November, Fiji were told they would be in the new competition along with Japan and the Rugby Championship and Six Nations sides.

But when the concept was put in front of potential broadcasters, they said they wanted something with more consumer reach – which was code for kick out Fiji and bring in the US.

So neither Fiji nor player representatives were invited to the hastily scheduled meeting in Los Angeles last month where the new proposal was unveiled.

Fiji found out through the "Herald" that they had been dumped and their indignity about that has been intensified by hearing that it was Scotland and Italy who refused to allow for there to be promotion and relegation in the World League.

And so here we are now, almost 30 years since Samoa so brilliantly lit up the 1991 World Cup, and the last vestige of hope that the Pacific nations will fulfil their enormous potential has all but gone.

The prospect of any of Fiji, Tonga or Samoa having credible international teams is dead if the World League, as it stands, becomes a reality.

The self-preservation tactics of those struggling Tier One nations will have won out and incredibly not only will they have saved their seat at the top table, they will have opened the door to picking off the best Pacific talent for themselves.

If the Islands are locked out of the World League for 12 years, everyone can see what will happen: the best Pacific talent will give up on the dream of one day playing test football for Fiji, Samoa or Tonga.

What would that look like in the next 12 years? Endless Tier Two tests in small, empty stadiums and paltry match fees?

No, instead they will chase the alternative, which is to see the five-year residency qualification as their best route to playing meaningful test rugby.

Their players will head to Europe on club contracts at a younger age than they currently do to maximise the time they are eligible for another nation.

And having killed the Pacific nations as test entities, the likes of Scotland, Ireland and Wales will feel no remorse as the Islands' players flood into their clubs and inevitably win national selection.

Samoa inflicted significant pain on Wales in 1991, but it seems that really, they were the real victim of their excellence.