Pundits in war-of-words over cancelled match

By Bethel Peato Ale 30 November 2021, 11:04PM

War-of-words triggered by the eleventh hour cancellation of the Manu Samoa match against the Barbarians has moved off the pitch and threatens to enter the courtroom.

Some members of the rugby fraternity in Europe took to social media last Saturday – after the match between Samoa and the Barbarians at Twickenham was cancelled 90 minutes before kickoff – and criticised the Barbarians.

Former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies and former England captain Dylan Harley were the Barbarians’ biggest critics with the British press reporting the two former rugby internationals describing the match’s cancellation as “utter shambles and “beyond embarrassing”.

The match last Saturday (British Standard Time) had to be cancelled after six members of the Barbarians side returned positive COVID-19 tests.

But Davies, who works for the BBC as a rugby commentator, reportedly said the last minute cancellation “was not good enough”.

“This is an utter shambles and disgrace,” he said. “They have promoted the game and Samoa pulled out all the stops to get here without their full-strength squad, ironically, due to Covid restrictions some could not travel. 

“And now this! They get all this way here and it is called off so close to kick-off. It’s not good enough.

“After the shambles of last year too when some of the Barbarians broke the bubble and had to be replaced, it is unforgivable.”

Harley reportedly said it was “beyond embarrassing” that the Barbarians couldn’t complete the match unlike Samoa whose team had to overcome various challenges.

However, the comments by the two rugby pundits has not gone down well with the Barbarians President John Spencer, who has reportedly said he is considering legal action against the duo for what he described as unwarranted attacks following last Saturday’s cancelled match.

The Times reported that Spencer, who is a lawyer by profession, will consult with the Barbarians committee before making a decision on whether to sue Harley and Davies.

“I’m seething concerning the feedback of Jonathan Davies and Dylan Hartley. We’re accused of being disorganised and a shambles and our principal concern is to make sure there isn’t any long-term hurt to the Barbarians," Spencer reportedly said.

“As a lawyer I’m significantly contemplating our [legal] place on this and it’s in my thoughts.”

It is the second time for a Barbarians match at Twickenham to be cancelled due to COVID-19. Last year a England vs the Barbarians match had to be spiked after 12 Barbarians players breached COVID-19 protocols.

Meanwhile, the Manu Samoa Head Coach, Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua said it was a disappointment for the management team as well as his players and the fans for the match to be cancelled.

“The players and management team were saddened by the cancellation of their scheduled matchup against the Barbarians, but on a positive note, I’m glad that all of them are healthy, safe, and staying Covid-19 free,” he said.

Vaovasamanaia pointed out that Lakapi Samoa and its team management had to overcome and adhere to months of travel restrictions as well as pandemic protocols in order to put together a European-based team. And this was despite the odds of playing the fixture which fell outside of the “international window”. 

“The players and management that were selected ensured that the pandemic protocols were followed in limiting their movements inside their Covid-19 bubble during the week of preparation," he said.

“I am very proud of the sacrifice that this group has endured to make sure that we presented a Covid-19-free team to give this fixture the respect it deserves.

“I understand that the safety of everyone involved is paramount and the correct decision was made.

“But I feel for some of our senior players who would’ve been wearing our national jersey for the last time, not to mention those who would’ve been wearing the jersey for the first time.”


Rugby union
Manu Samoa
By Bethel Peato Ale 30 November 2021, 11:04PM
Samoa Observer

Upgrade to Premium

Subscribe to
Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device.

Ready to signup?