The Samoa Rugby Union have their sights set firmly on the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
CEO Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai said that’s their primary focus for 2019.
“It’s now I think the 3rd biggest sporting event there is, behind only the Olympics and Football World Cup.
“It could be a great spectacle to get exposure for Samoa, so we really want to do well.”
Having missed out on the quarterfinals in the last two World Cups, Faleomavaega said the Union are leaving no stone unturned to ensure the Manu are properly funded and prepared for the campaign.
The Pacific Nations Cup in July and August with one game in Apia, followed by another game here against Tonga will be crucial to that preparation.
“We’re really looking forward to getting Manu Samoa together for a couple months before the World Cup,” Faleomavaega said.
“It’s an opportune time as well for our people to see the team here, so we can get people on board for the World Cup.”
Because of the small population and capacity for games held in Samoa, the two local fixtures will not yield much financial gain.
“As long as we recover our costs,” Faleomavaega said.
He said the important part is having the boys feel the support, especially since a lot of them are overseas based.
The Guardian reported earlier this week that Premiership Rugby would not release the international players at its English clubs until mid-August because of a dispute with World Rugby over insurance.
That would mean Manu players at English clubs would miss the Pacific Nations Cup, and join up with the rest of the squad just 35 days out from the start of the World Cup
Faleomavaega said the huge issue of insurance payments is nothing new.
“We haven’t been able to cover those costs – World Rugby do every time the Manu Samoa play.
“It’s the same issue for Tonga and Fiji, and probably a lot of the other Tier Two nations who financially struggle.”
He said the Rugby Players’ Association were working on sorting something out with World Rugby and the clubs.
“We’ve worked really hard over the last couple of years to build good relationships with the clubs around players, releases and so forth.
“We understand it’s a massive investment for clubs into their players, and they want to protect that.”