England’s Fijian Contingent: The Last Generation?

England's Nathan Hughes (R) is tackled by South Africa's Franco Mostert during the rugby union test match between England and South Africa at Twickenham stadium in southwest London on November 12, 2016. / AFP / Adrian DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The likelihood of England’s Fijian contingent lining up against the country of their birth has received a boost this week. Eddie Jones looks likely to test the depth of his squad even further despite injuries in key positions in the lead up to the November Tests. Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni are both potential starters after Jones named his 25-man squad. Discussions, however, are now taking place meaning that they may well be one of the last generations of Fijian born players choosing to play for tier 1 nations.

Fiji Rugby in the Spotlight

In a week that saw a perceived snub of Fiji Rugby at the World Rugby Awards missing out on both Team of the Year, Coach of the Year and Sevens Player of the Year, it has also seen many positives. Not least the announcement from Ben Ryan former Fiji Sevens coach that talks are underway for Fiji to enter a team in Super Rugby from 2018. This would have a huge impact of the player drain that sees so much of Fiji’s talent ply their trade overseas and ultimately represent international sides through eligibility laws. Coupled with the earlier announcement from the Australian Rugby Union that Fiji will have a side in the National Rugby Championship in 2017 then things begin to look slightly more positive for the Pacific nation.

England’s Fijian Contingent Unfazed

Whilst this will be a fourth cap for Rokoduguni, it would be a first run on cap for Hughes and all the attention this week has been on his decision to play for England. He has openly stated to the press that his decision was not based solely on money, albeit his desire to provide for his family spurred him to choose England as his rugby home. The impact of both men may well prove pivotal not only on the weekend against Fiji but later in future months as England’s squad aims to be number one in the world. That they have made the decision to represent the nation of their livelihood and not birth should not be viewed as detrimental to the player rather than a chastising view of the system in place.

A Chance for Change

With these discussions surrounding Super Rugby and indeed action from the ARU adding a Fiji club side to competitions, there is huge potential for a shift in world rugby. Arguably it is Fiji that have speared headed the tier two nations drive for inclusion with the tier one sides. Although Georgia have a huge case for their hard work in Europe. With changes off the field then Fiji should be able to begin to compete more on the field with the top nations and bring a far more competitive edge to international tournaments. Change is often glacial within rugby unfortunately but plans do appear to be taking shape rather quickly for Fiji. That can only be good for the game.

All the talk this week has been of Fiji as they prepare to take on England at Twickenham. They will once again be taking centre stage as underdogs and against players who have chosen to represent other nations. Yet there is hope on the horizon that there will be one day be a last generation of Fijian players who chose not to play for the island nation.

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