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