Fiji Rugby Union board chairman Keni Dakuidreketi said Fiji would very likely be included in the top 16 Rugby World Cup championship of the future if IRB chairman Dr Syd Millar had his way.
Dr Millar revealed yesterday in Planet Rugby that he would like to see the trimming of the number of teams in the tournament from 20 to 16 to eradicate the mis-matches witnessed in past tournaments.
He said he would also like to see a second division tournament be devised to compensate teams with a lack of exposure.
Dakuidreketi said with the European 6 nations and Tri-Nations teams already heading the top nine teams in the world the other seven teams that would make up the tournament would include Fiji.
“It will be a toss up with Argentina, US, Canada and the three Pacific nations and Romania very likely making up the 16 teams in the new format,” he said.
“But I would not make any firm statements or commitment until we take a look at the official report of what Dr Millar is commenting on.”
Dr Millar said he would like to see the new format being adopted once he has stepped down from his post after the Rugby World Cup in France this year.
“We have to look at the number of countries. I’ll stick my neck out and say we have to consider 16 teams,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“If we do that, we have to look at a secondary competition to provide the opportunity for the others to play in a tournament that is more relevant to their strengths.”
Millar also expressed an intention to reduce the international calendar, saying that the weakened teams currently taking to the fields are doing the international game no good.
“There’s no pleasure to anyone seeing weakened teams play. Less may be more,” said Millar.
“We may have to look at some sort of competition, not on an annual basis, where we can make these matches more relevant.”
However, Millar’s biggest problem – and that of his successor – is getting all the unions and governing bodies to agree on what changes to the season need to be made.
He pointed to the difference of countries, such as Ireland, who centrally control all their players and those like England whose Rugby Union’s who are often dictated to by the clubs.
“Everybody wants change, but they don’t want to change,” Millar said.
“We can’t satisfy everyone probably, but the first thing we have to do is determine in a World Cup year when tests should take place and how many there should be.
The IRB will convene in England shortly after the Rugby World Cup for three days, to examine the ins and outs of a globally integrated fixture calendar, generally regarded as the biggest step in the right direction for all concerned parties.
Dakuidreketi said the IRB funded HPU programme set up in Fiji had been developed so countries like Fiji would be able to catch up with Tier One nations.
“We need to see how fruitful this programme is before we venture into other formats,” he said.
“If Fiji can compete well with Tier One nations after the implementation of the HPU unit that we need to keep the present RWC format.”
Caption: National halfback Mosese Rauluni speaks to the media on Monday at the Holiday Inn in Suva. Photo: GREG TAYLOR