As England get set to take on Fiji this Saturday at a sold out Twickenham, much controversy has surrounded the discrepancy in pay between the two sides, with England players set to pocket £22,000 each compared to Fiji’s players lowly £400 for the game.
The massive difference in pay scale was brought to light after Fiji-born Nathan Hughes pledged his international allegiance to England, citing that part of his decision was financially motivated.
Former Samoa captain Dan Leo made the decision to retire from international rugby in 2015 after voicing his displeasure at the way the Samoan Rugby Union operates, and is now championing a campaign to help maintain the wellbeing of Pacific Island players who now play in England.
The 34-year-old has stated, via the BBC, that he has “big dreams” for Pacific Island rugby and that it is his goal to see a team from the islands lift the World Cup one day, but admits that “a whole lot of steps need to be taken before that becomes a reality.”
The Pacific Island teams in rugby union generally refer to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, all of which currently sit within the top 15 ranked sides in world rugby.
The Fiji side set to play England on Saturday will have several familiar faces for those who follow Premiership Rugby, with the likes of Campese Ma’afu, Akapusi Qera and Niko Matawalu all set to feature.
Despite the population of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga being only a little over one million combined, it is estimated that 18% of all professional rugby union players globally come from Pacific Island heritage, with 70 plus players in the Premiership alone, six of which are in the England squad.
Leo created the Rugby Players’ Association Cultural Diversity Programme earlier this year which offers advice on a variety of matters to players of Samoan, Tongan or Fijian heritage who ply their trade in the Premiership.