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Samoa PM rejects proposed union changes

December 1, 2014

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Samoa’s prime minister has ruled out the changes to the Samoan Rugby Union sought by players who threatened to boycott last month’s test against England.

Statements on Monday by prime minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, who is also chairman of the SRU, are seen as likely to inflame a dispute between the union and national team players.

Players have demanded reform of the Samoa union, including the removal of two senior board members. A threat to boycott last month’s test against England at Twickenham was only dropped when the International Rugby Board and International Rugby Players’ Association agreed to mediate between the SRU and players.

Prime minister Tuilaepa has consistently goaded players since the boycott threat made differences between the players and union an international issue.

He first called Samoa players “little children” who were guilty of “foolish thinking” and said the boycott threat was provoked by a handful of players, near the end of their careers, who put money before country.

Tuilaepa then claimed the dispute had been resolved, incensing players who said the Samao union had refused even to enter into discussion, despite the involvement of the IRB and IRPA.

His latest statements are likely to further inflame a delicate situation. Tuilaepa said “it is not for them (the players) to decide” how the Samoa union is run.

“Their duty is to play and win,” he told the Samoa Observer newspaper. “If they win, win, win, it makes it a lot easier for us to find sponsors to help us.”

Tuilaepa named the two board members whom players who had sought to have removed. They are former coach, long-serving board member and member of Parliament Lefau Harry Schuster and former Samoa scrumhalf Tuala Mathew Vaea.

Vaea was manager of the Samoa team to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and was criticized in a letter written to Tuilaepa by national team captain Mahonri Schwalger.

Tuilaepa again insisted that the dispute with players had been resolved and criticized the IRB for allowing the letter in which the Samoa players threatened to boycott the England test to be publicly revealed.

“The ghost from IRB leaked (the letter) and it caused all this trouble when everything had been resolved,” he said.

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