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Samoa players deny dispute with union is over

November 25, 2014

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Samoan rugby players are disputing the claims of their prime minister that a dispute with their national rugby union has been resolved.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, who is also union chairman, told Television New Zealand on Tuesday that he had spoken to the players and the dispute is under control.

But lock Daniel Leo, who is spokesman for the Samoan team, told Radio Live on Wednesday “we haven’t even had a chance to meet with them, let alone sort anything out, so it’s stalling tactics.”

The International Rugby Players Association also issued a statement saying “the situation is absolutely not under control. There’s a lack of urgency from the Samoan Rugby Union to address issues and frustrations are building within the rugby community.”

The IRPA and International Rugby Board agreed to intercede between players and union when the Samoa team threatened to boycott last weekend’s test against England to bring their dispute to international attention.

They highlighted a range of issues including the paltry allowances players receive when playing for Samoa, the fact that players often had to pay their own airfares to assemble with the Samoan team and their concern that union officials meddle in team selections.

Players also raised wider concerns over the administration of the union and its financial transparency.

Tuilaepa responded by calling the players “little kids”, saying they were guilty of “foolish thinking” and putting money before country.

The IRB and IRPA hoped to mediate discussions between the union and players but Tuilaepa may have pre-empted those moves by declaring on Tuesday that issues had been resolved.

He told TVNZ that he has spoken with the players and “explained to them that their function is to play.”

“You don’t get yourselves involved in management,” he said. “No players anywhere will do that.”

Tuilaepa said he agreed with the players that they should receive more than their current travel allowances, which have not increased in 24 years.

“I also told them we’ll try, but it’s a two-way thing if they are able to perform well then we will be able to raise the necessary sponsorships and they understand now,” he said.

Leo told Radio Live that Tuilaepa’s assertion that matters had been resolved was incorrect.

“I was as shocked as anyone to see that he had come out and said that it was sorted because it is pretty clear that it is not,” he said.

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