Western Force can expect to face powerful Pacific Island sides in next year’s Global Rapid Rugby competition after an ambitious attempt to set up a combined islands Super Rugby team failed.
A joint bid from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga to SR governing body SANZAAR fell over after required funding of about $11 million could not be found.
The move means players not already signed to SR or overseas clubs are likely to view GRR as an option.
Sides from Fiji and Samoa will play in the $1 million competition, bankrolled by WA mining magnate Andrew Forrest, while an announcement on a Hawaii-based team with a strong Tonga player base is said to be imminent.
The Japan Rugby Union council meets next week when a decision will be made on which of their teams will join.
Sides from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia – understood to be backed by South African Currie Cup division one club Falcons – will make up the eight-team tournament.
Forrest has said he is happy to financially kick start sides that will then be handed over to sports councils and entrepreneurs who are keen to own their own teams.
An elite team would be a game changer for the Pacific Islands whose talent is sucked to New Zealand, Australian, Europe and Japan on lucrative deals.
Millionaire Richard Fale is understood to be leading the consortium backing the Hawaii GRR team.
Fale, who was born in Utah but grew up in Tonga, was a prospective buyer for the New Zealand Warriors earlier this year but missed out on the NRL club.
He said of Super Rugby: “You can’t ask guys to put in $50 million to launch the team and then they can yank the licence from you like they did to the Western Force.”