Video of the week: Samoa scandal

Date published: November 14 2014

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Reports over a planned strike by Samoa for their match against England might have been a surprise to some, but it shouldn’t have been.

Wednesday’s reports over a planned strike by Samoa for their match against England might have been a surprise to some, but it shouldn’t have been.

For those scraping the surface off this issue for the first time, frustrations with the Samoan Rugby Union from Samoa players aren’t a new occurrence.

Following the 2011 Rugby World Cup, as excellently reported by 3News‘s John Campbell three years ago, alarm was raised by Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger and the rest of Samoa’s senior players over how the millions of Samoan Tālā raised by the country to help the team’s World Cup campaign had disappeared.

Schwalger talks with real dignity about something which you’d justifiably expect would make his blood boil.

In a brief summary, though the full report is essential viewing, the team were paid $1000 a week to play in the tournament, a much smaller figure than Fiji and Tonga, let alone major players such as New Zealand.

Schwalger drafted a report on the catalogue of mis-management after the World Cup was over, before paying the price the following year when he was axed from the national squad.

“After that incident last year after the World Cup I knew it was going to come, but that’s the sacrifice I’ve got to take to make sure the future of our rugby in Samoa will be in better hands,” Schwalger told TVNZ in 2012.

“It’s pretty disappointing because we’ve got our prime minister running it, and this must be the only country that has a prime minister involved in running the sport.

“Those guys are always worrying about themselves instead of worrying about what is best for the future of Samoan rugby.”

Now here we are in 2014 with a lack of financial transparency, a clutter of mis-management and more indignation in the Samoa camp leaving them on the verge of a strike.

Nothing truly appears to have changed since three years ago and the valiant efforts of Schwalger and other senior Samoa players after the Rugby World Cup – including Seilala Mapusua and Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu – appear to have come to nothing.

Just because the Samoa players have now resolved to not strike however next weekend doesn’t mean that the issues are resolved, even if an ‘ongoing dialogue’ is taking place between the IRB, International Rugby Players Association and the SRU.

Samoa’s performances at the last Rugby World Cup, we can see now, drastically outshone their resources.

While Fiji possess a high number of excellent backs and Tonga have always been physical, Samoa have appeared to be the Pacific Island most likely to challenge the upper order of world rugby over the last decade. Yet that will never happen without better government at the top.

There is so much talent in Samoan rugby but as Schwalger said, it’s no surprise that leading players want to play for the All Blacks or England instead of Samoa without the right, honest management at the top.

The evidence against the Samoan Rugby Union is overwhelming, while the rest of the rugby world should be horrified that in 2014, Samoa players are still expected to pay their own air fares.

Their tour allowance hasn’t changed since 1990, with requests to have it reviewed ignored according to the letter leaked by The Rugby Paper.

Now having caught the world’s attention by threatening to pull out what is a massive game for Samoa’s players at Twickenham, we owe it to the sport to make sure action is taken. They deserve better.

by Ben Coles

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