Townsend expects stern test despite Samoa cash crisis
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has told his side to prepare for a typically proud Samoa at Murrayfield on Saturday regardless of the financial meltdown that has engulfed the Pacific islanders.
This week saw the Samoa Rugby Union declared bankrupt by chairman Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao, also the country’s prime minister.
“We are bankrupt,” Malielegao told the Samoa Observer as he launched an appeal for public donations.
“It means the union cannot continue to pay off our debts with the banks. We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play,” he added ahead of a Samoa tour that also includes a match against Romania as well as a showpiece Test with England at Twickenham.
England’s Rugby Football Union has reportedly agreed a £75,000 goodwill payment with the Samoa Rugby Union ahead of the November 25 match, while the England players selected for that Test are considering whether to hand over a portion of their match fee.
Meanwhile it is understood the Scottish Rugby Union are covering Samoa’s tour costs while they are in Scotland.
There have long been concerns about how professional rugby union has exacerbated the wealth gap between the likes of rich nations such as England and France compared to poorer countries such as Samoa and Fiji.
But former Scotland playmaker Townsend said he hoped a way could be found to return Samoa to solvency.
“We want every country doing well, especially a nation like Samoa that has produced so many good rugby players and so many great wins over the years,” he said.
“Let’s hope they get through this in a much better state than they seem to be in right now.”
Townsend added: “I believe professional rugby can and has enhanced opportunities for players in the south seas and the amount of Fijian players, Tongans and Samoans playing in Europe now at a high level has really increased over the years.
“The islanders have a real affinity with the game but their strengths as individuals are brought out.
“They are a huge part of the worldwide game of rugby and it’s a big challenge taking them on this week because we know how proud they are but also what a good team they are,” said Townsend, citing how Samoa had pushed Scotland desperately close before losing 36-33 in a 2015 World Cup pool match.
Meanwhile World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said the global governing body had budgeted about £7 million ($9.2 million) for Samoan rugby between 2015 and 2019, up 30 percent on the previous four-yearly World Cup cycle.
But while mismanagement is an issue, teams such as Samoa lack the economic clout that comes with the sponsorship opportunities and huge fan bases enjoyed by larger nations.
Gosper warned redistributing funds in a world where 90 percent of rugby’s revenue was generated by the 10 tier one nations was no easy task.
“It’s a fact of life. There’s an economic difference in the unions in some parts of the world versus the unions in other parts of the world,” he said.
“There isn’t sufficient money to create the redistribution that may well lead to an equalisation of pay,” the Australian added. “There are market forces that are very hard to swim against.”
On the field, Edinburgh prop Darryl Marfo is set to make his international debut in what will be Townsend’s first home match as Scotland coach.
Samoa counterpart Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua has included two debutants in his starting XV — lock Josh Tyrell and prop Donald Brighouse — while Melani Matavao and AJ Alatimu could win their first caps off the bench in a team captained by lock Chris Vui.
© Agence France-Presse
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