16 May 2018

Sport: Under-strength Samoa likely for Rugby World Cup qualifier

11:25 am on 16 May 2018

Manu Samoa rugby coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua says up to half of their first choice squad could be unavailable for the team's rescheduled World Cup qualifying matches.

Samoa will face Germany or Portugal for a place at next year's tournament in Japan after World Rugby announced the new dates for their home and away playoff series.

Subject to any appeal, the first leg will be in Apia on June 30, with the return match in Europe on July 14.

Confirmation comes after an independent judicial and disputes committee found Belgium, Spain and Romania fielded ineligible players in the Rugby Europe Championship and docked them competition points.

Manu Samoa are yet to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Manu Samoa are yet to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Photo: AFP

The first leg was originally schedule for June 9 and Fuimaono said the three-week delay means they will be without a number of key players.

"There are some players for sure they are not available for these games but, as you know, we are having our Super 9 at the moment, our local tournament," he said.

"So we have some of the players that might cover our professional players if they're not available."

Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua.

Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Fuimaono said they had been waiting a long time to have their schedule clarified but it's good to finally know the dates and the team they will play.

"Whatever the outcome of the Europe program is still alright with us because that was our first priority, we want to qualify for the World Cup, he said."

"It looks like it's over 50 percent of our boys now being ok with all the dates being changed but this morning we will try to contact some of our players with their availability.

World Rugby emphasised in their release the rescheduled dates would enable the least-possible disruption for Samoa's European and Southern Hemisphere based players, who must be released under Regulation 9, which covers all Rugby World Cup qualifiers.

But Fuimaono said the reality is some players have already made other plans while others have specific agreements with their clubs.

"Some of the players it's in their contract that they won't be available for their national side but we're alright because we already have our Plan B

and our preparations for some players to replace all our unavailable players," he said.

"Some of them already have plans for their weddings...there are players they've already said their plans because right from the start from last year our dates was June so all the players had their plans ahead but they changed it. It's not from the players' perspective but it's all from (World Rugby) changing dates."

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