10 Nov 2017

Sport: World Rugby rejects Samoa claims

10:44 am on 10 November 2017

World Rugby has denied claims from Samoa's Prime Minister that the country's rugby union cannot afford to insure its players.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also chairman of the SRU, said this week that the organisation was "bankrupt".

He said that there was no money to pay for player insurance and the head coach's salary ahead of matches against Scotland, Romania and England.

But, in a statement, World Rugby said it had increased their indirect investment in the SRU's high-performance programme to almost $US2 million in 2017.

"Specifically for the November window, this support package includes insurance cover under Regulation 9, underwriting assembly costs for a pre-tour camp, flights to and from Europe and participation in the Americas Pacific Challenge, a preparation and development tournament," the statement said.

The governing body also announced details of an increased investment into Fiji, Tonga and Samoa in co-operation with Pacific Rugby Players, the body representing players in the region.

The Prime Minister of Samoa and Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, the Honourable Tuilaepa Fatialofa Aiono Neioti Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi.

The Prime Minister of Samoa and Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, the Honourable Tuilaepa Fatialofa Aiono Neioti Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi. Photo: Photosport

World Rugby's General Manager, High Performance Peter Horne said: "In the 2016-19 cycle, World Rugby will invest an estimated £20.3m ($US26.7m) in programmes for Fiji, Tonga and Samoa which is an increase of 19 per cent on the last cycle.

"This programme is reaping benefits with the outstanding performances of the Flying Fijians this year as well as the World Rugby-funded Fijian Drua, competing in Australia's National Rugby Championship as a pathway for local players.

"Tonga's win against Italy last November was a big push towards their Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification and we'd love to see similar results from them and Samoa this November.

"As we work towards RWC 2019, we need to ensure the three Pacific Island teams are as competitive as possible and this increase in world-class staffing and support will really benefit the squads."

Pacific Rugby Players board member and former Samoa midfielder Seilala Mapusua said: "We are delighted to work in partnership with World Rugby on player welfare initiatives for Pacific Island rugby players.

"Through this partnership, we have a powerful approach to player welfare that allows us to make meaningful difference and have a long-term impact for the benefit of Pacific Island players.

"A strong player association in the Pacific region is important and we have the support and buy-in of all men's and women's elite teams in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa."

World Rugby unhappy with coaching appointment

Despite emphasising their investment in the Pacific region, RNZ Pacific understands World Rugby has withheld funding earmarked for the Samoa Rugby Union, including the salary of Manu Samoa head coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua because it was unhappy with his appointment and the way it was handled by the SRU Board.

Samoa coach Titimaea Tafua during the 2011 World Cup.

Samoa coach Titimaea Tafua during the 2011 World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It is understood Fuimaono, a current SRU board member, was ranked seventh by an independent committee that interviewed candidates for the role, which became vacant following the resignation of Namulauulu Alama Ieremia in August.

World Rugby was not given advance notice of the Board's decision to reappoint Mr Tafua - against the committee's advice - instead finding out via the media.

The governing body had also been unhappy with the sacking of former Samoa sevens coach Damian McGrath in 2016 and the review of the mid-year internationals, which led to the end of Namulauulu's tenure as Manu Samoa head coach and SRU Director of Coaching.

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