Sir Bryan Williams has a long-held grievance he wants settled. One way or the other, the World Rugby hall of fame inductee believes a Pacific team must be included in New Zealand's Super Rugby competition next year.
As the first Pacific player to represent the All Blacks in 1970, Williams inspired generations to follow his lead. After playing 38 tests on the wing Williams went on to coach Samoa and Auckland, and assist the Hurricanes, as well as dedicating extensive energy to his beloved Ponsonby club.
His frustrations at the Pacific's exclusion from rugby's elite pathways date back to the turn of professionalism at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.
At that point, Fiji had reached quarter-finals of the inaugural World Cup in 1987 while Samoa stunned the game by making the same stage of the '91 and '95 tournaments.
"We'd been part of Super Rugby up until that time and then were suddenly, totally left out in the cold," Williams recalls at his Herne Bay residence of the negotiations which shaped rugby's future.
"No consultation whatsoever about whether you could mount any sort of bid for a team in the competition. I've always had huge disappointment and a great sense of grievance about that. Here there is now an opportunity."
That opportunity comes largely due to Covid-19, and the landscape whereby New Zealand Rugby will again stage a domestic only Super Rugby competition next year.
Bids to form a Pacific Super Rugby franchise closed yesterday and the Herald understands Fiji, Samoa, Kanaloa Hawaii and Moana Pasifika among others lodged separate proposals. The Asia Pacific Dragons are also keen to join the competition from 2022.
Williams is one of seven members on the Moana Pasifika steering committee that includes the former Attorney-Generals of Samoa and Tonga. He now faces an anxious wait before NZ Rugby makes a decision on the Pasifika venture by the end of this month.
"It would probably be better if we weren't competing. We've talked to a number of groups and we are going to collaborate with some of them.
"After 25 years of waiting I'm not particularly concerned how it happens, as long as it happens. I'm about to turn 70 but I'd certainly like to see it in my lifetime.
"If there's unity of purpose we'll all come together and row in the same direction to make it happen.
"Ideally a competition with six teams would certainly serve the broadcaster and public better. Three games a weekend is better than two. For those reasons it's important we try and maximise the opportunity."
Williams is confident the pressing timeframe to contract players and establish a sustainable, competitive entity is not insurmountable for 2021, with several high-profile coaches already sounded out.
"The constraints are real but we're being pushed and shoved into all sorts of situations with Covid-19. Where there's a will there's a way."
Moana Pasifika's bid is understood to centre on a trust funding the potential franchise, with several investors lined up should they get the green light. Crucially this model would avoid long-standing governance issues that have plagued the Island nations, while providing sought-after pathways back to the national teams.
If Moana Pasifika's bid is successful the team would play home games at Mt Smart Stadium. Despite concerns from New Zealand's five existing franchises, particularly the Blues, Williams believes the two can thrive in the world's largest Polynesian city, with a potential rivalry developing over time.
"There are challenges with the Blues and possibly the Chiefs but under the Covid-19 restrictions I can't see it not being based in Auckland. We've got one and a half million people. The evidence in years gone by has been if you've got 350,000 you're up for a franchise, so 1.5 million is about four franchises.
"The Blues would be concerned about their player base but the fact is there's heaps of talent. The Pacific Island unions have their development teams and many players based in Japan, France and the UK.
"Many of them get homesick and have other mental health challenges so it's a golden opportunity to bring some of those players back.
"Some of the talent you see at secondary school level here, it's mindboggling what these kids can do. Given that sort of opportunity, you watch, they'll develop. Names you've never heard of before. With these young All Blacks we hadn't heard of them three-to-five years ago and suddenly they're superstars.
"Many of them are in this region. Auckland has always been a sleeping giant. We've had our ups and downs over the past 20 years but there's no doubt the talent is there and in the Islands."
Williams draws parallels to the surge in support the Tongan rugby league and union teams enjoyed during their respective World Cup campaigns, and says 73 per cent of fans surveyed in a feasibility study conducted by Deloitte indicated the desire for a Pacific team to be included in Super Rugby.
"We've seen evidence of the sort of mass appeal – you might even call it hysteria. They support their teams to the absolutely nth degree. If you've got a team that represents all four nations, Cook Islands included, you're going to get great support."
Longer term, establishing a team the Pacific community can identify with and call their own could unlock the true potential of the Island nations that, before now, has instead helped fuel many tier-one test countries, including the All Blacks.
On a personal level welcoming a Pasifika team would settle burning resentment Williams has held for 25 years.
"I watched Samoa go from seventh in the world to 16th all because they haven't got any meaningful role in professional rugby in this part of the world. If they did, I can see a scenario where the All Blacks and Australia take on Fiji, Samoa, Tonga in this neck of the woods and be totally competitive.
"In the last 20 years they have these midweek games against one of the Islands and put 70 points on them because getting a team together involves bringing players and coaches back from Europe; they're given a week to prepare and they get their backsides kicked. That's not fair.
"If you had a situation where they can play on an even playing field week in, week out, and then you select your national teams, you watch the standard and interest rise. Suddenly you've got teams that are competitive.
"The players are definitely there, it's a matter of honing that talent and it can happen."