Samoa threatened with World Cup expulsion
Saturday’s game against England to go ahead after u-turn on potential boycott
Samoa’s game against England is set to go ahead after the visitors were threatened with World Cup expulsion if they boycotted the fixture
Samoa’s senior players only agreed to call off boycotting Saturday’s England match after claiming to be threatened with expulsion from next year’s World Cup.
Toulouse prop Census Johnston has revealed Samoa’s players received a series of warnings from rugby chiefs after their threats to walk out of this weekend’s autumn Test at Twickenham.
The 33-year-old front-rower said Samoa feared next year’s Test visit of New Zealand to Apia would have also been in doubt had the squad gone through with strike threats.
Johnston said Samoa’s players have only relented on their planned strike action to safeguard crucial future opportunities for the country’s rugby-focused economy and public.
“Yeah, there’s a lot been going on the last couple of weeks,” said Johnston, confirming Samoa were threatened with World Cup exclusion and the All Blacks not touring next summer.
Johnston refused to name the source of the threats, despite hinting at International Rugby Board (IRB) involvement.
“To be honest we’re really focused on this week, for the people of Samoa, rugby’s a huge part of the country,” said the former Saracens prop.
“It’s really important we put the country first before ourselves.
“We haven’t spoken to all the boys about it but we have spoken to a lot of the senior players about it.
“And we’ve all just decided that we’ll front up this week to make sure that we play well.”
Samoa’s senior stars last week threatened to boycott Saturday’s England match over long-held concerns of administrative mismanagement by the country’s rugby union.
The IRB and International Rugby Players’ Association have both stepped in to mediate, but the Samoa Rugby Union have so far refused to attend meetings.
Samoa’s prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele, also the rugby union’s chairman, labelled the players “spoilt children” in a bid to force through the clash against England.
Johnston said Samoa’s senior stars hope to hold talks with union officials later this week, but conceded they are yet to receive a response despite repeated invitations.
“Well we’re waiting for them to come to the table at the moment, we haven’t heard anything back,” said Johnston.
“As a senior group we’ll probably have a meeting later on tonight (Tuesday), just to clear things up a little bit and let the boys know where we stand at the moment.
“Our sole focus this week is to try to put up a good performance against England.”