Planet Rugby

Devaluing the game?

19th November 2012 12:38

Share:

Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu Samoa training 2011

No shrinking violet: Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu

Samoa centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu has earned a reputation as someone willing to fight passionately for the cause of the underdog in the game.

A qualified lawyer, the former Gloucester midfield back hit the headlines at last year's World Cup in New Zealand for speaking his mind on Twitter.

His language and references to some of history's worst atrocities might have been on the strong side.

But he is no mouthy whinger - a rebel without a cause à la Quade Cooper - and his point about bigger teams being given preferential scheduling treatment at World Cups has been rectified for the next tournament.

It therefore seems inevitable that the 32-year-old has strong feelings on the recent allegations made by former Racing Métro back-line coach Simon Mannix - that the Parisian outfit paid Fijian players to miss the 2011 World Cup. And Fuimaono-Sapolu wants clubs to realise how important it is for them to release players for international duty.

Although he was careful not to wade in with allegations of his own, Fuimaono-Sapolu said he was not surprised by Mannix's claims and pointed out the IRB's Regulation 9, which is the governing body's attempt to legislate the release of players for Test duty.

"The rules are unequivocal," he told Planet Rugby in an exclusive interview.

"To keep players from representing their country robs not only their country but the RWC tournament of the best players in the world.

"The RWC is meant to be the pinnacle of rugby, where the best players in the world compete against each other having had the best preparation and are at their most fittest, strongest and under the most pressure. It's a celebration of the rugby world's greatest players.

"Quite simply when the best players are not there, it's not the best tournament. Not to mention the hopeful children who wake up at ungodly hours to support their countrymen.

"It's a lose-lose (situation). It really is a blight on the game."

Powerful words indeed but this is hardly surprising as Fuimaono-Sapolu is no shrinking violet.

He believes the battle between clubs and countries is not as simple as it looks and said he was unsure whether punishing players or clubs, found guilty of breaking the rules, would solve the problem.

"The thing is not many players will tell of this treatment because they want to keep their jobs," explained Fuimaono-Sapolu, who is currently plying his trade with Coca-Cola West Red Sparks in Japan.

"There are so many ways to 'entice' a player to make themselves unavailable for national selection.

"I don't know if a punitive approach though will solve the matter. More information and celebration of why it is important for players to be released should be the aim.

"Clubs, especially European clubs, need to see the huge benefits to the player, country and world rugby by adhering to this regulation.

"They need to know that they are doing a good thing. It's great for world rugby. It's great for the fans of Fiji and other countries.

"And it's great for the player. They grow as players and will return to the club better and hopefully, with success at the RWC, they return with greater publicity and attention for their respective clubs.

"It's a gain-gain situation. Players want to represent their country even if it is for peanuts. I guarantee, if you have deprived a player of representing their country, you're not getting the best out of him. He's just working. There is resentment in his heart."

Fuimaono-Sapolu feels if the club versus country issue can be resolved then the game will be the ultimate winner - and that's not just in the feelgood sense.

Everyone knows that money talks, and ultimately makes all the major decisions in sport these days, and Fuimaono-Sapolu can see the financial benefits of giving the smaller rugby nations their due.

"Lots is said about money. I love rugby. I want to see it grow to the level football is on worldwide, but also to a competitive level where anyone can beat anyone. It's just because I love the game.

"The capitalists always talk about money. Well here it is. How much money does football make? Exactly. Loads. And they have the world's most popular game. Therefore, if you want money, then grow the game (rugby) worldwide."

His skills as a diplomat may need a bit of fine-tuning, but as a policy maker he is difficult to argue with.

By David Skippers

This is an extract from Planet Rugby's FREE weekly newsletter, the Crooked Feed, which featuring opinions, news and competitions. All you have to do is click here and sign up to receive our weekly email.

Rugby Union betting odds

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle vs Toulouse14:45
Castres vs BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Preview
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 30
Griquas vs Cheetahs15:00
Blue Bulls vs Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Preview
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , August 30
Counties Manukau vs Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Preview
Southland vs Otago17:35
North Harbour vs WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Preview
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, September 3
Manawatu vs Bay Of Plenty19:35
Thursday , September 4
Otago vs Canterbury19:35
Friday , September 5
Tasman vs Waikato18:05
Northland vs Hawkes Bay20:05
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00