Sup­port­ers rally to the cause by rais­ing £106k for be­lea­guered na­tional team

The Scotsman - - Sports Digest -

Samoa rugby fans have ral­lied to the aid of their team after warn­ings that the Samoa Rugby Union is in­sol­vent and play­ers may go un­paid for the au­tumn Tests in Europe this month.

A com­bined ra­dio and telethon in Samoa on Wed­nes­day raised 354,000 Tala (£106,000) in a na­tion which has a pop­u­la­tion of less than 200,000 and an av­er­age an­nual house­hold in­come of around £11,000.

The na­tional ap­peal fol­lowed a dire warn­ing from prime min­is­ter Tuilaepa Sailele Maliel­e­gaoi that the Samoa Rugby Union is un­able to meet its debts or pay player wages.

Samoa’s Tests against Scot­land to­mor­row and Eng­land and Ro­ma­nia over the fol­low­ing two weeks will go ahead as sched­uled. The Samoa play­ers and coach Fuimaono Tim­i­taea Ta­fua are likely to be fully paid fol­low­ing the fundrais­ing drive. The Rugby Foot­ball Union (RFU) has also in­di­cated it will make a good­will pay­ment of £75,000 to Samoa to help meet play­ers’ match fees.

The RFU of­fered a sim­i­lar “good­will” amount to Fiji ahead of last year’s Test at Twick­en­ham from which it re­ceived an es­ti­mated £10 mil­lion, de­spite be­ing un­der no obli­ga­tion to share with the vis­it­ing team.

Rugby’s rev­enue-shar­ing sys­tem, which al­lows ma­jor na­tions such as Eng­land to re­tain all rev­enues from home matches, has been strongly crit­i­cised by Samoa and other Pa­cific Is­land na­tions.

World Rugby replied to im­plied crit­i­cism of its own com­mit­ment to Samoan rugby by con­firm­ing that it meets all costs of player in­sur­ance, air travel and train­ing camps for the Euro­pean tour through a £1.5m con­tri­bu­tion to Samoa’s high-per­for­mance pro­gramme in 2017.

Worl­drug­byal­soan­nounced de­tails of in­creased fund­ing to Fiji, Tonga and Samoa in co­op­er­a­tion with Pa­cific Rugby Play­ers,the­bodyrep­re­sent­ing play­ers in the re­gion.

The gov­ern­ing body con­firmed that the Pa­cific Is­lands teams will re­ceive more than £20m for the cur­rent fouryear cy­cle 2016-19, a rise of 19 per cent. Eng­land have rested Owen Far­rell and Maro Itoje for to­mor­row’s au­tumn se­ries opener against Ar­gentina at Twick­en­ham.

Head coach Ed­die Jones had in­di­cated he would stand down some of his Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions due to their in­volve­ment in the sum­mer tour to New Zealand and he has cho­sen to omit Far­rell and Itoje from the match­day 23.

Henry Slade re­places Far­rell at in­side cen­tre and Ge­orge Kruis and Court­ney Lawes are paired in the sec­ond row. The open­side duel has been won by Sam Un­der­hill with his fel­low rookie Tom Curry named among the re­place­ments.

El­liot Daly and An­thony Wat­son have been named on the wings after Jonny May failed to re­cover from a ham­string strain.

Glouces­ter back Owen Williams will make his first Test start when Wales face Aus­tralia in Cardiff to­mor­row.

Williams, who was capped as a re­place­ment dur­ing Wales’ tour match against Tonga ear­lier this year, lines up at in­side cen­tre. There are also op­por­tu­ni­ties for Scar­lets wing Steff Evans and Cardiff Blues flanker Josh Na­vidi.

Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions Test full-back Liam Williams, mean­while, is on the wing, as Leigh Half­penny re­tains the No 15 shirt, and there are three un­capped play­ers among the re­place­ments in Dragons prop Leon Brown, plus Ospreys pair Owen Watkin and Sam Cross.

Ire­land wing Keith Earls could miss the en­tire au­tumn cam­paign due to a ham­string in­jury.

The Mun­ster player suf­fered the blow in train­ing on Tues­day and has been ruled out of to­mor­row’s opener against South Africa in Dublin. An­drew Con­way has stepped up to start in Earls’ place to face the Spring­boks, with Dar­ren Sweet­nam primed for his Test de­but off the bench.

New Zealand-born Bundee Aki will also make his Ire­land bow this week­end, forg­ing a for­mi­da­ble cen­tre pair­ing with Rob­bie Hen­shaw.

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