Samoa prime minister hits back at rebel players
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has blasted national rugby players who threatened to boycott next week’s test against England as “little kids” who are guilty of “foolish thinking.”
Tuilaepa, who is also chairman of the Samoan Rugby Union, said the threatened boycott was the work of troublemakers within the Samoa team who put money before country.
Samoan players wrote to the International Rugby Board in late October, saying they would not play the Nov. 22 test against England at Twickenham unless their concerns about the management of the Samoan Rugby Union were addressed.
“As players, we’re unhappy with the incompetence of the Samoan Rugby Union in its current shape and under its current leadership,” the players’ letter said.
“We would like to notify you that we have called for the resignation of a number of senior officials within the Samoan rugby Union and will be boycotting our game against England on the 22nd of November should our feelings not be addressed.”
The players complained they are often required to pay airfares to join the Samoa team, daily allowances paid while on tour had not increased for years, coaches were not given a free hand in selections and that teams were named on social media before players were informed.
On receiving the letter, the IRB and International Rugby Players Association intervened, achieving a settlement which will allow the England match to proceed.
Tuilaepa hit back angrily at the players’ claims during his weekly press conference in the Samoan capital Apia, saying the insurrection within the Samoa team had been led by “two or three boys who are nearing retirement.”
“It’s the thinking of little kids,” Tuilaepa said.
“Their bread is from professional contracts they achieved because of Manu Samoa. If they didn’t play for Samoa, they wouldn’t have gotten those big contracts.”
Tuilaepa said “if they don’t want to play then don’t come. There are many players here who are looking for an opportunity.
“We’re not forcing you. So submit your resignation and we’ll select new players.”