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New Zealand is deploying 'rugby diplomacy' in the southern Pacific with plans to use the sport to unlock development in the region and ward off growing Chinese influence. Wellington is seeking to establish a joint team from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would join the Super Rugby club competition, which is contested by 15 teams from southern hemisphere nations and Japan. The involvement of a new Pacific islands team - called Pacific Force - is being seen as a potential catalyst for development in the region at a time when China is seeking to gain a foothold through massive investment. "Part of the plan is that rugby can be a diplomatic force to counter China's influence in the Pacific," said New Zealand media outlet Newshub, who first reported the plan. "The idea is that rugby will help keep hearts and minds away from China, which is saturating the region with money to obtain influence." New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters earlier this year expressed "strategic anxiety" over the Pacific. Beijing is being seen as using its economic muscle to gain influence in South Pacific countries. Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16. Samoa's lock and captain Chris Vui is tackled during the autumn international rugby union test match between Scotland and Samoa at Murrayfield stadium Credit: AFP China has built a presidential palace and government buildings in East Timor and invested heavily in Vanuatu, a tiny island 1,200 miles north-east from Brisbane where reports last month suggested Beijing was eyeing a military base. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said officials had commissioned an NZ$80,000 (£41,000) report into a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise. The spokeswoman said: "The establishment of a regional fully professional rugby team in the Pacific Islands has the potential to deliver economic and social benefits to individual players, their families and communities, Pacific Island national rugby unions and teams, and to Pacific Island economies." Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are long-established rugby nations, but players often opt to play for foreign teams at an early stage in their careers. A strong home-based team would help keep star players within the islands, and boost the development of the sport and wider investment. Super Rugby officials are currently exploring plans to restructure the competition from 2021 to 2030. There is speculation that South African teams might opt to join European rugby sides in alternative competitions.
New Zealand deploys ‘rugby diplomacy’ amid scrum with China over Pacific islands
New Zealand is deploying 'rugby diplomacy' in the southern Pacific with plans to use the sport to unlock development in the region and ward off growing Chinese influence. Wellington is seeking to establish a joint team from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would join the Super Rugby club competition, which is contested by 15 teams from southern hemisphere nations and Japan. The involvement of a new Pacific islands team - called Pacific Force - is being seen as a potential catalyst for development in the region at a time when China is seeking to gain a foothold through massive investment. "Part of the plan is that rugby can be a diplomatic force to counter China's influence in the Pacific," said New Zealand media outlet Newshub, who first reported the plan. "The idea is that rugby will help keep hearts and minds away from China, which is saturating the region with money to obtain influence." New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters earlier this year expressed "strategic anxiety" over the Pacific. Beijing is being seen as using its economic muscle to gain influence in South Pacific countries. Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16. Samoa's lock and captain Chris Vui is tackled during the autumn international rugby union test match between Scotland and Samoa at Murrayfield stadium Credit: AFP China has built a presidential palace and government buildings in East Timor and invested heavily in Vanuatu, a tiny island 1,200 miles north-east from Brisbane where reports last month suggested Beijing was eyeing a military base. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said officials had commissioned an NZ$80,000 (£41,000) report into a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise. The spokeswoman said: "The establishment of a regional fully professional rugby team in the Pacific Islands has the potential to deliver economic and social benefits to individual players, their families and communities, Pacific Island national rugby unions and teams, and to Pacific Island economies." Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are long-established rugby nations, but players often opt to play for foreign teams at an early stage in their careers. A strong home-based team would help keep star players within the islands, and boost the development of the sport and wider investment. Super Rugby officials are currently exploring plans to restructure the competition from 2021 to 2030. There is speculation that South African teams might opt to join European rugby sides in alternative competitions.
New Zealand is deploying 'rugby diplomacy' in the southern Pacific with plans to use the sport to unlock development in the region and ward off growing Chinese influence. Wellington is seeking to establish a joint team from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would join the Super Rugby club competition, which is contested by 15 teams from southern hemisphere nations and Japan. The involvement of a new Pacific islands team - called Pacific Force - is being seen as a potential catalyst for development in the region at a time when China is seeking to gain a foothold through massive investment. "Part of the plan is that rugby can be a diplomatic force to counter China's influence in the Pacific," said New Zealand media outlet Newshub, who first reported the plan. "The idea is that rugby will help keep hearts and minds away from China, which is saturating the region with money to obtain influence." New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters earlier this year expressed "strategic anxiety" over the Pacific. Beijing is being seen as using its economic muscle to gain influence in South Pacific countries. Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16. Samoa's lock and captain Chris Vui is tackled during the autumn international rugby union test match between Scotland and Samoa at Murrayfield stadium Credit: AFP China has built a presidential palace and government buildings in East Timor and invested heavily in Vanuatu, a tiny island 1,200 miles north-east from Brisbane where reports last month suggested Beijing was eyeing a military base. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said officials had commissioned an NZ$80,000 (£41,000) report into a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise. The spokeswoman said: "The establishment of a regional fully professional rugby team in the Pacific Islands has the potential to deliver economic and social benefits to individual players, their families and communities, Pacific Island national rugby unions and teams, and to Pacific Island economies." Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are long-established rugby nations, but players often opt to play for foreign teams at an early stage in their careers. A strong home-based team would help keep star players within the islands, and boost the development of the sport and wider investment. Super Rugby officials are currently exploring plans to restructure the competition from 2021 to 2030. There is speculation that South African teams might opt to join European rugby sides in alternative competitions.
New Zealand deploys ‘rugby diplomacy’ amid scrum with China over Pacific islands
New Zealand is deploying 'rugby diplomacy' in the southern Pacific with plans to use the sport to unlock development in the region and ward off growing Chinese influence. Wellington is seeking to establish a joint team from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga that would join the Super Rugby club competition, which is contested by 15 teams from southern hemisphere nations and Japan. The involvement of a new Pacific islands team - called Pacific Force - is being seen as a potential catalyst for development in the region at a time when China is seeking to gain a foothold through massive investment. "Part of the plan is that rugby can be a diplomatic force to counter China's influence in the Pacific," said New Zealand media outlet Newshub, who first reported the plan. "The idea is that rugby will help keep hearts and minds away from China, which is saturating the region with money to obtain influence." New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters earlier this year expressed "strategic anxiety" over the Pacific. Beijing is being seen as using its economic muscle to gain influence in South Pacific countries. Australia's Lowy Institute estimates China provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16. Samoa's lock and captain Chris Vui is tackled during the autumn international rugby union test match between Scotland and Samoa at Murrayfield stadium Credit: AFP China has built a presidential palace and government buildings in East Timor and invested heavily in Vanuatu, a tiny island 1,200 miles north-east from Brisbane where reports last month suggested Beijing was eyeing a military base. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said officials had commissioned an NZ$80,000 (£41,000) report into a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise. The spokeswoman said: "The establishment of a regional fully professional rugby team in the Pacific Islands has the potential to deliver economic and social benefits to individual players, their families and communities, Pacific Island national rugby unions and teams, and to Pacific Island economies." Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are long-established rugby nations, but players often opt to play for foreign teams at an early stage in their careers. A strong home-based team would help keep star players within the islands, and boost the development of the sport and wider investment. Super Rugby officials are currently exploring plans to restructure the competition from 2021 to 2030. There is speculation that South African teams might opt to join European rugby sides in alternative competitions.
Rugby Union - Hong Kong Sevens - New Zealand v Samoa - Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong, China - April 7, 2018 New Zealand's Tone Ng Shiu (R) is tackled. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Hong Kong Sevens
Rugby Union - Hong Kong Sevens - New Zealand v Samoa - Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong, China - April 7, 2018 New Zealand's Tone Ng Shiu (R) is tackled. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Rugby Union - Hong Kong Sevens - New Zealand v Samoa - Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong, China - April 7, 2018 New Zealand's Jordan Bunce is tackled by Samoa players. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Hong Kong Sevens
Rugby Union - Hong Kong Sevens - New Zealand v Samoa - Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong, China - April 7, 2018 New Zealand's Jordan Bunce is tackled by Samoa players. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Chris Robshaw in action REUTERS/Toby Melville
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Chris Robshaw in action REUTERS/Toby Melville
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Mike Brown scores a try Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Mike Brown scores a try Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
England coach Eddie Jones pictured during the international rugby union Test between England and Samoa at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017
England coach Eddie Jones pictured during the international rugby union Test between England and Samoa at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017
England coach Eddie Jones pictured during the international rugby union Test between England and Samoa at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017
England coach Eddie Jones pictured during the international rugby union Test between England and Samoa at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017
England coach Eddie Jones pictured during the international rugby union Test between England and Samoa at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017
England coach Eddie Jones pictured during the international rugby union Test between England and Samoa at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017
England coach Eddie Jones pictured during the international rugby union Test between England and Samoa at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017 (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
England coach Eddie Jones pictured during the international rugby union Test between England and Samoa at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017
England coach Eddie Jones pictured during the international rugby union Test between England and Samoa at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017 (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England head coach Eddie Jones before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England head coach Eddie Jones before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England head coach Eddie Jones before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England head coach Eddie Jones before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
England's wing Elliot Daly (R) holds the ball past Samoa's wing David Lemai during the autumn international rugby union test match between England and Samoa at Twickenham stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
Rugby Union - Hughes, Daly hand England Six Nations blow
England's wing Elliot Daly (R) holds the ball past Samoa's wing David Lemai during the autumn international rugby union test match between England and Samoa at Twickenham stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
England's flanker Maro Itoje wins the lineout during the autumn international rugby union test match between England and Samoa at Twickenham stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
Rugby Union - England's Itoje will be fit for Six Nations - Saracens
England's flanker Maro Itoje wins the lineout during the autumn international rugby union test match between England and Samoa at Twickenham stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
England's prop Ellis Genge (R) runs the ball during the autumn international rugby union test match between England and Samoa at Twickenham stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
Rugby Union - Leicester's Genge out for two months with shoulder injury
England's prop Ellis Genge (R) runs the ball during the autumn international rugby union test match between England and Samoa at Twickenham stadium in south-west London on November 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Glyn KIRK )
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Henry Slade in action REUTERS/Toby Melville
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Henry Slade in action REUTERS/Toby Melville
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Piers Francis in action Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Piers Francis in action Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Samoa's TJ Ioane holds the ball while getting a leg in the face from England's Chris Robshaw during the rugby union international match between England and Samoa at Twickenham stadium in London, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Samoa's TJ Ioane holds the ball while getting a leg in the face from England's Chris Robshaw during the rugby union international match between England and Samoa at Twickenham stadium in London, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Samoa's TJ Ioane holds the ball while getting a leg in the face from England's Chris Robshaw during the rugby union international match between England and Samoa at Twickenham stadium in London, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Henry Slade scores a try Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Henry Slade scores a try Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 Samoa's Jordan Lay in action during the scrum REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 Samoa's Jordan Lay in action during the scrum REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England head coach Eddie Jones before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England head coach Eddie Jones before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Jonny May in action Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Jonny May in action Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Elliot Daly in action REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Elliot Daly in action REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England and Samoa players huddle after the match REUTERS/Toby Melville
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England and Samoa players huddle after the match REUTERS/Toby Melville
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Semesa Rokoduguni scores a try REUTERS/Toby Melville
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Semesa Rokoduguni scores a try REUTERS/Toby Melville
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Mike Brown with Samoa's James Lay after the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa
Rugby Union - Autumn Internationals - England vs Samoa - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 25, 2017 England's Mike Brown with Samoa's James Lay after the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

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