Samoa relented on boycott after RWC threat
LONDON (AP) — Samoa called off a boycott of this week’s test against England only after it was threatened with being expelled from the Rugby World Cup, prop Census Johnston said on Tuesday.
New Zealand’s first visit to Apia in July was also put on the chopping block if Samoa didn’t relent, Johnston added.
He wouldn’t say who was warning the team against the strike action, a last-resort move the team planned for Saturday because of deep concerns for months over the administration of the Samoa Rugby Union, and alleged interference in team selection.
“There’s been a lot going on the last couple of weeks,” he said.
Samoa’s players wrote of their worries to the International Rugby Board on Oct. 27 and, almost overnight, the IRB averted the strike by engaging with the team, union and International Rugby Players Association. The boycott threat became public knowledge last week.
The team, union, and IRPA committed to ongoing dialogue about the players’ worries, but Johnston said the Samoa Rugby Union has failed to respond to repeated invites for talks.
“Well, we’re waiting for them to come to the table at the moment, we haven’t heard anything back,” he said.
“As a senior group, we’ll probably have a meeting later on tonight (Tuesday), just to clear things up a little bit and let the boys know where we stand at the moment.
“It’s really important we put the country first before ourselves. We’ve all just decided that we’ll front up this week to make sure that we play well.”
Last week, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who was also chairman of the union, dismissed the players for “foolish thinking” and acting like “little kids.” He accused them of putting money before their country, and failing to deliver wins.
But the players said they were acting to help the next generation of Samoan players.
Johnston, who played at Toulouse, said several senior European-based players will consider administration roles in Samoa when they retire.
“We need people who are going to be there for the players - help the development of Samoa rugby,” Johnston said,
“They’ve come from a professional environment where they know how things need to be run ... and know how to treat a team,” he said. “Hopefully, players will go home when they retire.
“The future of Samoa rugby is in our hands, and that’s what we’re trying to do now, to make a move before the World Cup. We’re trying to push this forward for the future of Samoa rugby.”
On tour, so far, Samoa has lost to Italy and beaten Canada.