Young Pacific Island players excited for the future of rugby

Sylvia Brunt, Patricia Maliepo (centre) and Liana Mikaele-Tu'u during a press conference to announce the British & Irish Lions Women’s Tour in 2027. Photo: Photosport, Andrew Cornaga.

The future of women’s international rugby is looking bright with another pinnacle event being added to the calendar and that has some young players excited.

This week it was confirmed that the inaugural British and Irish Lions women’s team will tour New Zealand in 2027.

The WXV competition started last year with three global divisions, while the 2025 World Cup will involve 16 teams… four more than took part in 2021.

Pacific Island players have made their mark in the New Zealand game for some time and that is growing dramatically in the women’s game.

Twenty-one-year-old Liana Mikaele-Tu’u has been a part of the Black Ferns set-up since 2021.

“It’s real exciting to think about the growth of the game and hopefully by that time of the tour we are still playing,” Mikaele-Tu’u told RNZ.

“We have a lot of young talent. and to think about the years ahead with our careers is very promising.”

Having grown up and started her rugby career in Hawke’s Bay, Mikaele-Tu’u is now with the Blues and is set to become a regular starter for the national side.

The Lefagoalii and Sinamoga player was also a key player in the World Cup 2021 team.

“To accomplish something so early in my career is something I will never forget.”

Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, Women’s Rugby World Cup New Zealand 2021.

Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, Women’s Rugby World Cup New Zealand 2021. Photo: Photosport, Andrew Cornaga.

In two years’ time the loose-forward will be gunning to solidify her position in the World Cup team in England.

However, for now she wants to focus on, “enjoying the game and be at my best”.

“I’d love to be the best player in the world to be honest.”

Mikaele-Tu’u said she was proud of her Samoan heritage and acknowledged that she inspired the younger generation, especially the Pasifika community.

“To think that I can inspire at least one Samoan kid in New Zealand is a blessing. It is important to show the kids there is more to labour work.”

New Zealand Rugby’s head of women’s high performance, Hannah Porter, said including the Pacific countries in an international tour among other elite teams was a possibility in the future.

“It’s always [at] the forefront of our minds in regards of what our competitions look like and making sure we include and grow that part of the game.

“I think there will be lots of opportunities whether that is in the domestic competition or within an international setting.”

Mikaele-Tu’u said “exposure to more high-quality competitions is what our little Pacific nations need”.

“If you think about it the All Blacks, Black Ferns are made up of mostly Pacific nations.”

Before her career ends, Mikaele-Tu’u said she would like to represent her homeland Samoa.

“I would love to play for Samoa before I retire, and I would like to see them in the same competition we are blessed to play in.”

The next competition for New Zealand’s top rugby players is Super Rugby Aupiki which starts on 2 March.