The Islanders, made up of players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, aredue to play Test matches against the Wallabies on July 3, the All Blacks onJuly 10 and the Springboks on July 17.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) Council met Monday to approve regulation changes naming Pacific Islanders as an IRB member that canforce a club to release a player it requires for Test match rugby. "I am delighted the IRB has moved to protect the Islandersand to ensure we can have first and last call on the Fiji, Samoa and Tonga players whoare keen to participate," said Pacific Islanders Rugby Alliance chiefCharlie Charters.
The change also covers the British and Irish Lions who, like theIslanders, have been recognised as an IRB member for the first time for thepurposes of player release.
Islanders coach Wayne Pivac welcomed the change saying. "The issue of player release is a critical one for thePacific and this is a good move that can put our players on the front foot when theydiscuss with their clubs their participation in the Islanders."
The inaugural Islanders will be selected following the PacificTri-Nations
Meanwhile, All Black legend Michael Jones has been confirmed as head coach of Samoa. Jones replaces New Zealander John Boe and his appointment was announced bySamoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele, who is also chairman of the SamoaRugby Union, and banker Michael Fay, chairman of the New Zealand based ManuSamoa Rugby Ltd.
"This appointment is special to me and I am very humbled byit", said Jones, who has been assistant Samoa coach for the last four years.
Boe said Samoan rugby had a bright future under Jones. "I have no doubt Michael Jones will do a fine job and I wishhim and Manu Samoa all the best as they start their preparations for the 2007Rugby World Cup in France", said Boe.
New Zealand-born Jones, 39, first played for the All Blacks in1987 and went on to play 55 Tests and 74 games in All Black colours.
This year Samoa will play Tonga in Apia on May 29, Scotland inWellington on June 4 and Fiji in Suva on June 12.
AFP - 2004.