Only way to silence these greedy cats is to win. Las Vegas was nearly the perfect response

Close but not quite enough. That’s how it was for the Manu Samoa Sevens in Las Vegas yesterday. And while the team and many Samoan rugby supporters on these shores and all over the world would be gutted, there is one thing we cannot deny; yesterday’s final appearance was a sight to behold.

Indeed, it had been a long time coming. Since former coach Damian McGrath took the men in blue to the Paris title a few years ago, yesterday was the closest Samoa had come to winning a tournament under new coach Sir Gordon Tietjens. It was refreshing, something we want to see more often.

All things considered though, the end result was perhaps a let down especially for the players themselves.

You see apart from their opening game against New Zealand, they got better and better as the tournament progressed. Perhaps they peaked one game too early against Argentina in the semifinal where we saw some of the best rugby they have played for a long time.

In the final, against the home team, they were outplayed and outscored but not for the lack of trying. Some might have let the occasion get the better of them but that’s life.

It would have been fabulous if they were able to knock out the United States but then the Eagles, having been consecutive finalists in four tournaments this year, this was one they were not going to lose, especially in front of their fans. Experience wise, the U.S.A. was the better team. And they were hungrier. 

And so today, we congratulate the United States team. In the same vein, we express commiseration to Sir Gordon Tietjens and his men who must be kicking themselves for letting this one slip. The truth is that this experience will no doubt set them up for bigger things to come. What was most interesting to watch was how so many of those young players stepped up; their performance gives us hope.

Speaking of hope, during a week where we’ve read and heard so much talk about how World Rugby is effectively working to kill rugby in the Pacific with yet another conspiracy, a Manu Samoa Sevens triumph yesterday in Vegas would have been the perfect response.

World Rugby’s poor treatment of Samoa – and other Pacific countries – is nothing new. The truth is that the fat cats of rugby have done everything in their power to disadvantage small countries like Samoa, whom they know have all the potential in the world to give them a run for their money.

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That’s why this 12-team World League concept sounds so typical of the colonial and condescending attitude these bigger rugby countries with all the money in the world have been showing us over the years. Nothing surprises us anymore. It’s the same old boys network conspiring to keep some of the world’s best players out of the game so their teams can continue to thrive. Out of sight, out of mind.

Since the proposal surfaced, a lot of things have been said and written about it. Talks of Pacific players and teams boycotting the Rugby World Cup has been making headlines all over the world. If it happens, that would be quite a statement.

The fact is rugby as it is cannot be successful without Pacific Island players. They are the entertainers who bring in the crowds. They are the guys whom fans want to see. They bring the sort of enterprising rugby we don’t see from the northern hemisphere nations whose style can be quite boring. 

So far, the Samoa Rugby Union through the Chief Executive Officer Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i has been quite reserved with his comments.

“For Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, again it’s a missed opportunity. Our issue has always been to try and get into these big stage tournaments, so that we can gain experience up at that level,” he said, adding that the spotlight also presents opportunities to access commercial revenue deals.

 “It’s awfully difficult for us to gain an international sponsor. The one thing that separates us, that we’re confident in is we have the resources in players.

 “With a bit more resources in terms of money that comes in, we can be very competitive, and we’ve shown that before.”

He said being able to compete against the top rugby nations from more developed economies has always been the challenge since the sport went professional.

 “It all comes back to earning more revenue, it’s a numbers game. That challenge will never go away until we are given a level playing field in terms of the opportunities for us to compete.”

Well maybe Faleomavaega is a bit diplomatic in calling World Rugby out for what they really are; a bunch of greedy self-serving bullies whose intentions have nothing to do with fairness and growing the game. They are all about money, power and control, nothing more.

Looking at the bigger picture, there is only one other way small countries like Samoa can get back at them, by winning. Yesterday’s near miss in Las Vegas was unfortunate because it would have been the perfect chance to remind them once again that despite all their monies, rugby – in this case Sevens rugby – is all about seven players against seven players with an oval ball. The rugby talents in the Pacific islands can neither be ignored nor denied. Our Manu Samoa Sevens team yesterday proved that.

Now after all this talk, imagine if the Manu Samoa 15s were to go to the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year and make the quarterfinals at least? It’s been done before and there is no reason why it cannot be done again. What’s more it will be the perfect way to shut them up once and for all.  Have a wonderful Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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