Safety comes first, Union Chief assures
The suspension of Global Rapid Rugby comes as a blow to the Samoa Rugby Union, which had been preparing to host four Manumā Samoa home matches at Apia Park over the next couple of months.
But the Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Rugby Union, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea'i, said the right decision was made by competition organisers to cancel the season indefinitely after Round One because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Paramount for us is the safety of our people and our players," he said.
After their opening loss to South China Tigers in Perth last Saturday night, the Manumā squad flew to Auckland, where they must remain in self-isolation until the 30th of March.
They arrived at Auckland Airport on Monday, hours after New Zealand made it compulsory for anyone entering the country from anywhere except the Pacific to quarantine themselves for two weeks.
New Zealand's border has since been closed to all incoming passengers except citizens and permanent residents of the country, though the squad should be free to return to Samoa after their self-isolation period pending the availability of flights.
“We’ll get them home as soon as possible, the Union is supporting them while they’re in New Zealand, covering all their accommodation and meals and stuff," Faleomavaega said, noting that while doing so was a costly exercise the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) had made plans to be prepared for unprecedented events like the COVID-19 crisis.
“They’re in good spirits, I guess they all understand [the situation]."
While no one knows how, when or if the 2020 Global Rapid Rugby season can be completed, the Invest Samoa Manumā squad will have their contracts paid out as though they are playing as normal.
That is a tougher ask for S.R.U. now that incoming sponsorship money is essentially frozen.
“Financially for the Union, it’s a blow in terms of what we had planned and the intentions with our sponsors," Faleomavaega said.
“We’re liasing very closely with our partners, and all the major stakeholders that are involved with the Union keeping them up to date with what’s happening."
Along with Global Rapid Rugby, essentially every ongoing professional rugby union competition in the world at either a domestic or international level has been shut down by the threat of COVID-19.