Former All Black 'Deeply Frustrated and Disappointed' by World Rugby Changes: Insights and Reaction


Former All Black ‘Deeply Frustrated and Disappointed’ by World Rugby Changes: Insights and Reaction

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In a significant development for the world of rugby, the 2026 Nations Championship competition has been announced, and it’s sparking strong reactions, especially from former All Black players with Samoan connections. This new competition, which only includes fixtures between World Rugby’s giants, the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship, is set to leave tier-two nations such as Tonga, Samoa, Georgia, and Portugal out in the cold.

For years, rugby nations worldwide, including New Zealand, have drawn on Pasifika players, using the islands as a talent pool to bolster their own competitions. However, the exclusion of smaller nations from this upcoming championship has raised concerns among those with strong Pasifika ties.

One vocal critic of this decision is former All Black and current Manu Samoa fly-half, Lima Sopoaga. Taking to social media to express his discontent, Sopoaga stated, “As a Samoan rugby player, I am deeply frustrated and disappointed by the recent World Council decision to exclude smaller nations like Samoa and Tonga from the upcoming Nations Championship. This move not only hinders our progress but undermines the spirit of inclusivity that rugby is supposed to stand for.”

Sopoaga is not alone in his frustration, as fellow international rugby players, including Keven Mealamu and Ardie Savea, expressed their support for his stance.

Former All Black Sir Bryan Williams also voiced his dissatisfaction with World Rugby officials and their alleged “unconscious bias” against Pasifika teams. Williams remarked, “It seems to be that the top nations, they control proceedings and this unconscious bias…they’re the ones who need to get through.”

South American rugby president Sebastian Pineyrua has added his criticism to the chorus of disapproval, warning, “It’s the death of rugby. It will be impossible to compete with those teams in four or five years. They’re going to go up, and the others will go down.”

Sopoaga, who played 18 games for the All Blacks, lamented the shattered dream of competing against teams like the All Blacks, Springboks, and Wallabies, which was eagerly anticipated by many. He added, “Until then, we remain determined and steadfast, ready to prove ourselves whenever we get the chance. Rugby is in our blood, and no decision can extinguish that fire.”

The exclusionary nature of the new global competition has raised concerns about the future of rugby’s inclusivity and its impact on smaller rugby nations with rich talent pools. The passionate response from players like Lima Sopoaga underscores the broader discussions about the direction of the sport on the global stage.


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