LONDON (AFP) – The International Rugby Board said Monday it wanted no repeat of Samoa’s threatened boycott of this weekend’s match against England ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Samoa’s players had warned they were contemplating pulling out of Saturday’s clash at Twickenham as a protest against their treatment by the Samoa Rugby Union (SRU).
IRB chief executive Brett Gosper, speaking at the World Rugby ConfEx in London said talks involving the SRU, the players, the International Rugby Players’ Association and the IRB meant “there is no threat to the game whatsoever at Twickenham”.
However, IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, also attending the conference, said that while the short term issue of getting the go-ahead for the game had been dealt with, the underlying grievances of Samoa’s players had still to be resolved.
“The first priority was to get the game in place at Twickenham and that has been achieved,” Lapasset said.
“We are in discussion with the Samoans – I have had a personal letter from the president of the Samoa Rugby Union which I have responded to and we have opened discussions with the players themselves.”
The Frenchman added: “There is no solution at the moment. It was just important we confirm what the Samoan players did today – they will play against England.”
Last week, the Samoa players’ unhappiness became public knowledge when, following a report in Britain’s Rugby Paper, the IRB released a statement saying they had been made aware of the Pacific Islanders’ concerns in October.
Monday’s Samoa Observer said in an editorial that the grievances included an alleged lack of financial transparency within the SRU with players being expected to pay air fares, coaches being denied a free-rein on selection and team line-ups being announced on social media before players had been notified.
Samoa, the top performing Pacific island nation and twice World Cup quarter-finalists, have in recent years recorded wins against top-tier countries such as Australia, Wales and Scotland.
Members of the Samoa team who beat Canada 23-13 in Vannes, north-west France, last Saturday met with the IRB and the IRPA over the weekend but the SRU chose not to be represented at the talks.
Mahonri Schwalger, who captained Samoa at the 2011 World Cup, was axed from the side a year later when he wrote a damning assessment of the management in a report to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.