S.R.U facing tough battle to keep Manu relevant on world stage

TA
By Thomas Airey, 23 December 2018

The Samoa Rugby Union are doing their best to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive sporting environment.

That’s what S.R.U CEO Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai told the Samoa Observer.

“We want to thank our country and our people for the support.

“We’re trying as much as we can under the circumstances to get the results our people want.”

He said the other Tier Two rugby nations have improved a lot through grassroots programmes.

“Georgia is up there now, Romania has always been there, Russia and Spain.

“Also because of the South African influence in Germany.

“Japan too, importing all the players to their domestic competition has taken their national team to another level.”

He said issues like availability and eligibility of players also make things tough.

“A lot of clubs and schools overseas are targeting younger players now, offering scholarships.

“It’s difficult for us, if someone comes and offers an 18 year old a $30,000 scholarship, they go with our blessing.

“Whether they make it or not they’ll get a good education

“If they go further, hopefully with the work we’ve done developing them one day they’ll want to play for Manu Samoa.”

He said there’s frustration, but no hard feelings over players that go on to represent other unions.

“They all have a connection and roots back home, and contribute back to their families, which can’t be bad.”

He said in deciding whether to play for Samoa players have to weigh the financial rewards against their pride in playing for the jersey and the country.

“We can only offer peanuts, but their bread and butter is their clubs anyway.

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“We don’t want them to come and just go through the motions.”

He said the biggest contribution the Union can make to the players is making them internationals, because of the value that adds to them as players.

“The best way to get that contract in Europe is playing a few games for the national team, then the doors open up for you.”

Eligibility is another issue the Union have to contend with.

Players who have been capped by another nation now face a 5-year stand-down period before they can represent anyone else.

Faleomavaega said that makes things even more difficult.

“But at the same time they have to put something in there.

“We’ve used the Sevens eligibility loophole before with Tim Nanai-Williams, but if we need a prop we can’t just put them on the Sevens programme.”

He said all those difficulties mean Samoa have to focus internally on having a strong domestic competition.

“We’re starting to see the fruits of the Super Nine with three players from there on the November tour.

“The development the Union has done in the players that go overseas, when those guys get contracts they send money back home, that’s the unseen picture of what we do at S.R.U.

“From the latest figures we have from the Players’ Asscociation, there’s over 100 Samoans playing in France, England, Japan and America.”

He said the idea of trials for the Manu pitting locals up against overseas players is an intriguing one that they like.

“But the insurance is an issue, clubs sometimes don’t like those kinds of things and won’t release their players.

“Ideally we want more southern hemisphere players in the Manu.

“Coach Jackson is looking forward to watching some of the Super Rugby players next year, and there are quite a few players who have shown interest in playing for us.”

Radio New Zealand reported that Jackson is monitoring about 70 eligible players to potentially be a part of next year’s World Cup squad.

Faleomavaega said the S.R.U’s main focus is making an impression at that World Cup in Japan.

“The changes in the professional game, now it’s all about broadcast rights, viewership and those kind of things.

“It’s also World Rugby’s main revenue earner, and the further we go into it, the bigger slice of the cake we get at the end.”

TA
By Thomas Airey, 23 December 2018

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