The Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.), Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i, is disappointed about reports that the New Zealand Rugby Union attempted to ban players with Pacific Island links from taking part in their national tournament.
The ban affects a number of New Zealand-based players who have opted to play for Samoa, especially for the Sevens programme.
Asked for a comment, Faleomavaega said he doesn’t understand the issues behind the decision.
“So I don’t think I have any comment to make because I’m not really up to speed with what the real issues are behind it,” he told the Weekend Observer.
Pressed on the idea that New Zealand Rugby is targeting Samoa, especially a number of players who have opted to put on the blue jersey under the guidance of Sir Gordon Tietjens, the C.E.O. said he would like to believe that is not the case.
“I think it’s very unfortunate if they would disregard our players just because they are playing or have played for Manu Samoa,” he said.
“I would hope that’s not the case.”
The discovery was made as a result of an investigation carried out by The NZ Herald two weeks ago.
Danny Kayes was among the players New Zealand Rugby had threated to ban.
“Danny Kayes had played for Manu Samoa last year and from the comments that I have read that he said he was born and bred as a Bay of Plenty player,” said Faleomavaega.
“And I will be surprised if that’s the case (they stop him from playing).
“I haven’t received the real facts around that, and the only comments that I have received is from the report in the article.”
Faleomavaega added that he would be very disappointed if the ban was specifically about the Samoan players.
“Because we do have a lot of players that are playing in the New Zealand competition around provincial and super rugby level.
“I would understand if the players were under contract for a Super 18 contract where some cases specifically in terms of their contract release in certain time of the year.
“But other than that I would be disappointed if that is the case.
“I would be very, very surprised and disappointed if that is the reason behind it, because he’s a Manu Samoa player.
“Like I said we have a lot of players playing around New Zealand, making a huge contribution, so I will be very surprised with that.”
According to The New Zealand Herald, there were conspiracy claims in some quarters that the bans were a reprisal against Samoan coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, who criticised NZ Rugby after his side failed at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The RPA took another view: that the high performance tail had been allowed to wag the NZR executive's dog.
This is because the initial sevens bans were at odds with the Super Rugby attitude, where each New Zealand team is allowed three Pacific Island players as of right.
The R.P.A got involved with its boss Rob Nichol telling the Herald: "We are talking about players who were born and bred here in New Zealand. These are players who for whatever reason have ended up representing other countries but they are loyal New Zealanders."
The Samoan resistance was led by Bay of Plenty's Danny Kayes, who is understood to have considered taking legal action if he was not allowed to play.
Kayes bluntly told NZR: "I am about as BOP as they get — the fact that I have been denied to represent my province is a kick in the guts and it doesn't seem right."
Kayes, whose mother is Samoan, played four tournaments for Samoa early last year but is not among their newly contracted 22 sevens players.
The 23-year-old, a civil engineer, pointed out to NZ Rugby he was born in Tauranga and had lived in Papamoa most of his life. He was reluctant to talk publicly, saying it was daunting taking on the national rugby body.