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Wednesday, 19 February 2020 00:38

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Cartan Global | Tokyo 2020


World Rugby have agreed a package of reforms designed to address the crisis in the sport in Tonga.

The Tonga Rugby Union (TRU) have been hit by unresolved administration and governance issues as well as debt and outstanding legal cases.

Last month the TRU said they had been placed in receivership with debts of $130,000 (£92,000/€115,000), with the news following the departure of a number of staff.

Financial support from World Rugby was suspended but a rescue package has now been agreed.

A 10-year tripartite agreement, encompassing all annual World Rugby, Government and TRU funding, committed to the growth of rugby in Tonga in line with good governance criteria, will be established.

A management committee with representatives from World Rugby, the Government and the TRU will also be set-up to oversee the high-performance programme, while the Tonga National Rugby Academy will be re-established.

This will help local players progress through and into the national team, it is hoped, and will also include welfare programmes.

World Rugby has also pledged to restructure its investment programme to facilitate the re-invigoration of competitions in the outer islands, including 'Eua, Ha'apai and Vavau.

The agreement was rubber-stamped following a series of meetings in Tonga's capital Nukuʻalofa,

John Jeffrey, World Rugby's Chairman of the Rugby Committee, said: "Tonga holds a special place in the history and future of rugby and rugby holds a special place in the cultural, economic and social fabric of the kingdom.

"We are committed to working with the Tongan Government and union to address the apparent issues and this prudent support package is a reflection of our collective commitment to rugby in Tonga and World Rugby's ongoing support of rugby in the Pacific Islands.

"This collaboration and investment will provide an environment to further grassroots development for the wider rugby family in Tonga, while strengthening the high performance environment that provides a dedicated pathway for local players to represent Tonga on the international stage.

"Good governance is central to World Rugby membership and World Rugby remains committed to rugby in Tonga and supporting a robust and sustainable administrative and governance framework within the union that will enable the union to prosper on and off the field of play.

"This support package will also provide a pathway and an opportunity for the union to strive to gain eventual representation on an expanded World Rugby Council and we will work closely with the union to ensure that they have the ability to achieve the requisite good governance criteria.”

Tonga, along with Samoa and FIji, are one of three major rugby forces in the Pacific islands.

They performed disappointingly at last year's World Cup in England, failing to come out of the group after only beating minnows Namibia.