Va'aiga Tuigamala, the former All Black and Manu Samoa wing, has spoken of his shock and sadness at a proposed new World Rugby competition which will effectively shut out the Pacific Islands nations for at least a generation.

In an interview with the Herald, the man known around the rugby world as Inga the Winger pleads with World Rugby to do the right thing as far as the Pacific Islands nations are concerned and fires a verbal blow at New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew.

Tew has insisted that World Rugby's proposal is just that and that New Zealand Rugby had issues with it including a lack of a "pathway" for the Pacific Islands, but Tuigamala said Tew was "kidding himself" because the islands had a clear history of being excluded from Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship.

"I think what the world needs to understand is that Pacific Islanders have been shunted," Tuigamala told the 'Herald'. "They've been deprived of their rightful place in world rugby. I say this as a very proud ex-All Black player and very proud former Manu Samoa player.


"I think you can read between the lines and I think Steve Tew has got to be kidding himself – it's quite obvious that we've been shunted again. They say that nothing has been confirmed or finalised but you don't need to be a rocket scientist to read between the lines.

"Even some of the current All Blacks have shown their disappointment at this format. As Kieran Read was talking about; it's the integrity of the game which is at stake."

Feelings are running high in the islands and around the world about a competition proposal that includes Japan and USA in a World League of 12, but denies ninth-ranked Fiji plus Tonga and Samoa when all three island nations have given so much to the game and in particular World Cups.

Va'aiga Tuigamala played 19 tests for the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport
Va'aiga Tuigamala played 19 tests for the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport

The latest development is a vote to boycott this year's World Cup in Japan by members of the Pacific Rugby Players' Welfare organisation, but Tuigamala, who played 19 tests for the All Blacks and 22 for Manu Samoa between 1991 and 2001, said he would be surprised if it succeeded.

Tuigamala made his test debut for the All Blacks at the 1991 World Cup, a tournament in which Manu Samoa distinguished themselves by beating Wales in Cardiff in a huge upset. His test debut for Manu Samoa took place in Dublin in 1996 when his side beat Ireland and he was also involved in his side's defeat of Wales in the 1999 World Cup.

The now 49-year-old, a blockbusting outside back during his prime, knows a thing or two about upsets on the world's biggest stage and said the game and the players would all be worse off if there was a boycott.

"There's no way that Pacific Islanders would want to boycott the World Cup. Why? Because it's the pinnacle, the absolute pinnacle of rugby. And that's why the little minnows, as they call them, the second tier nations, they're the ones that create so much atmosphere. Remember back to the World Cup in England last time when South Africa lost to Japan; look at what it did not just for the nation but the World Cup as a whole.

"This whole thing about boycotting – it might be a threat, but I can tell you now, the Pacific Islands boys, the boys from Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, they would not want to boycott the World Cup. They just want to play against the best in the world."


Tuigamala added: "I've always been an advocate for equal opportunities for the lesser teams and in this case it's the Pacific Islands teams. We've struggled but hung in there and every four years the rugby world and World Rugby expect us to pull the rabbit out of the hat in terms of creating atmosphere and upsets at World Cups.

"We did that in 1991 when Manu Samoa beat Wales, we did it in '99 in Wales again. We did it again in 2011 when Tonga beat France.

"We can't keep trying to pull the rabbit out of the hat and entertain the world when everyone knows that our rugby is being depleted, and that we aren't being given opportunities. We look to World Rugby sometimes for a hand out but what is more important is to have a hand up."

The Pacific Island nations have been shunted by a proposed World League, says Va'aiga 'Inga the Winger' Tuigamala. Photo / Photosport
The Pacific Island nations have been shunted by a proposed World League, says Va'aiga 'Inga the Winger' Tuigamala. Photo / Photosport

Tuigamala said should the proposal go ahead then players born in the Pacific Islands would seek to play for Tier One nations. It would mean the death of top rugby in the islands because, even should they receive "trickle down" money from World Rugby, there would be no one to consistently test themselves against.

Further, there would be no repeat of the All Blacks' historic visit to Apia to play Manu Samoa in 2015, a test that was special on many levels. "Watching the All Blacks run on to Apia Park was something we could only dream about," he said. "It wasn't only that it was the first time in history – it lifted the whole nation and that's what rugby can do."

Tuigamala added: "The sad thing is we know we can't compete against the big nations because population-wise, we just don't have the depth like the European countries or Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. We understand that, we know that.

"But there is still a place for that Pacific Island brand of rugby that entertains everybody, thrills everybody and gets everybody off their seats."