11 May 2020

Samoa PM defends world rugby vote

1:06 pm on 11 May 2020

The chair of the Samoa Rugby Union, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has defended the decision to vote for Sir Bill Beaumont as World Rugby Chair.

Former England captain Beaumont beat former Argentina halfback Agustin Pichot 28 votes to 23 to secure a second four-year term in charge of the game's governing body.

Fiji Rugby Union Chair Francis Kean, World Rugby Chair Bill Beaumont and Samoa Rugby Union Chair and PM, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Bill Beaumont and Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi after Samoa were elected onto the World Rugby Council. Photo: World Rugby

Samoa and Fiji were singled out for scathing criticism by various rugby unions and commentators after voting to re-elect Beaumont ahead of rival candidate Agustin Pichot.

New Zealand Rugby backed former Argentina captain Pichot, with NZR Chair Brent Impey telling Newshub they did their best "to persuade Fiji and Samoa that it would be in their best interested to vote with the countries of the southern hemisphere".

New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

But speaking publicly on the matter for the first time, during his weekly broadcast on Radio 2AP on Friday, Tuilaepa said: "Our vote was based on what we believe will be for the good of our rugby development."

The Samoan Prime Minister, who occupies the SRU's seat on the World Rugby Council, which votes for the chair and executive board, said he was surprised with the criticism, particularly the premise that Samoa had been offered benefits in return for voting for incumbent Sir Bill Beaumont.

In a nod to the Pacific Islands, Beaumont has pledged to review rugby's eligibility laws which currently restrict players to representing only one country at test level, unless they are able to exploit a rarely-used sevens loophole. He has also signalled a desire to revive the Nations Cup concept, which could see Fiji join an expanded Rugby Championship.

Sir Michael Jones and Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in 2017.

Sir Michael Jones and Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in 2017. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It is understood that former international players of Samoan descent were also used to try and persuade Samoa to support Agustin Pichot's campaign.

But Tuilaepa said the final vote was 28-23 and even if Samoa and Fiji had voted with their Southern Hemisphere neighbours the outcome would have been 26-25 and Bill Beaumont would still have won re-election.

"That is what would have happened if we had put our eggs in with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, and we would be on the outer," he said.

Australian PM Scott Morrison and Samoa PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi following the Wallabies victory in Parramatta.

Australian PM Scott Morrison and Samoa PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi after the Wallabies played Samoa in 2019. Photo: Samoa Government

Tuilaepa said decisions at the SRU are not made blindly and that they are made to get benefits for Samoan players and their development.