In the final line of the Sipi Tau, the Tonga rugby team’s challenge performed before each international match, the players chant: I am everywhere.
And so they are. The rugby players of the small Pacific Island nations are now ubiquitous in this modern professional sport that boasts more than 500 million fans worldwide. International teams are increasingly multicultural with one in five players identifying as being of Pacific Islands descent.
This endeavour for upward mobility has brought significant personal success for Pacific Island players, exemplified by the rise of rugby union’s first global star, the All Blacks’ Jonah Lomu.
The growing exodus of Pacific Island players since 1995 to wealthy rugby union clubs in Europe, Australia and New Zealand has been to the detriment of rugby-playing nations in the region, particularly Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.