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SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 23, 2001 - FM96/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have agreed to put aside decades of rugby rivalry.

They have formed a combined team, the Pacific Islanders, to play against leading rugby nations worldwide beginning next year.

Acting Chief Executive of the Fiji Rugby Union, Bob Challenor, said he is happy with the way the meeting among the three countries, held in Auckland, turned out.

Under the International Rugby Board touring schedule, Fiji will host the New Zealand All Blacks next year. South Africa will play Samoa and Tonga will host Australia.

It was agreed at the meeting that the combined Pacific Islanders also will play the touring teams.

In addition, efforts will be made to arrange for a match against England’s team, which will be in New Zealand during the new season.

Mr. Challenor said it is likely all these initial games will have to be played in Australia and New Zealand in order to mesh with tight schedules and generate sufficient revenue.

The model used by the British and Irish Lions -- a combined team of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales -- will be adopted for the administration of the Pacific Islanders, with all three countries being equal stakeholders in the project.

The coach will be appointed by the Islanders board with support from the national coaches of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

For additional reports from theFM96, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Fiji Village News (FM96/Navtarang.VitiFM).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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