Samoa have been told that next year’s Test against the All Blacks could be cancelled if they don’t play against England this weekend.
Samoa’s players have been told that next year’s Test against the All Blacks in Samoa could be cancelled if they fail to play against England this weekend.
The Test in Apia – which is scheduled to take place on July 8 2015 – is not the only event where their participation has been threaated with cancellation. They could also face exzpulsion from next year’s Rugby World Cup and the Olympics’ inaugural Sevens tournament in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
But despite such threats, there is still uncertainty in Samoa’s camp ahead of this weekend’s Test.
Samoa’s lock Dan Leo blamed the country’s prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele, who as chairman of the Samoan Rugby Union called the players “spoilt children” when they threatened to strike.
Leo said Samoa will “play with pride” against England this weekend but highlighted his concerns and uncertainty and revealed that their threat to strike had been a last resort.
“We didn’t want to do it but we knew we had to,” Leo told the Daily Telegraph.
“We were told if we went ahead we would lose the All Blacks game next year, Olympic participation and the World Cup. We would never deprive our people of that.
“We want them to be proud of us, for taking a stand and then for playing with pride in the shirt at Twickenham on Saturday.”
Leo explained that the uproar around the strike threat had been hard to deal with and the prime minister’s attack made the situation worse.
“We woke to those comments on Friday, which appeared to be dismissive of all our concerns,” he added.
“We know that our results on the field will help our cause somewhat by proving our commitment. We don’t want to get drawn into a slanging match.”
He said they were trying for months to keep their issues in-house.
“We don’t want to destroy the thing we are trying to save, and that is Samoan rugby,” he added.
Despite the players’ requests, Samoan officials were not helping the situation and they failed to attend a meeting with the players, officials from the International Rugby Board and the International Players’ Association.
“We are not money-grabbers, not at all,” said Leo.
“This is not about us. This is about the future of Samoan rugby. The grass-roots are being starved of funding.”
Leo said they were campaigning for the country’s next generation of players.
“Some might consider that our tactic of threatening to strike was extreme and unconventional, but believe me there was no other way,” he added.
“If there had been, we would have tried. We had to get people’s attention and now that we have, we want to see a resolution.
“This can’t all be swept under the carpet again once the England match is over.”
More talks are scheduled to take place on Thursday but Leo said it was unclear whether the Samoan union officials would attend.
“In the past, the Samoa Union has picked off those who have spoken out,” he said.
“Well, this time they have got 30 players willing to lay down their careers.”
Meanwhile, the Samoa Observer said the Test against England was still in the balance and quoted Junior Polu criticising the prime minister.
“You’ve got to commend the players for trying to make a change without getting the media involved, but it’s the prime minister who’s running his mouth off,” said Polu.