Samoa reaffirms ties with New Zealand after bullying claim

The Samoa Rugby Union has distanced itself from claims it was being bullied by New Zealand, saying it benefited from the close ties between the two countries.

New Zealand has also rejected claims levelled by Irish mobile phone magnate Denis O’Brien, whose company Digicel is one of the sponsors of Samoan rugby.

“The Samoa Rugby Union does not accept the description by Mr O’Brien of its relationship with the NZ Rugby Union as one where it is being bullied,” chief executive Peter Schuster said.

O’Brien told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that he had set up a fund large enough to ensure Samoa’s top 40 players did not have to move elsewhere.

“I hate bullies and New Zealand bullies the islands,” O’Brien said after a meeting with the Samoan prime minister, who claimed New Zealand was “pinching” his country’s best players by promising hefty salaries.

But Schuster said Samoa has benefited from its players based in New Zealand as well as from technical assistance provided by the New Zealand Union.

The Pacific Island nation is looking to New Zealand and Australia for a technical advisor, and recently recruited a new trainer from the New Zealand Super 14 franchise the Chiefs.

“Samoan rugby cherishes its long-standing relationship with New Zealand,” Schuster said.

“Many of our families have benefited through New Zealand’s education and sporting system. It’s a place where we have not just sporting ties, it’s a place of strong cultural and family identity.”

The New Zealand Rugby Union earlier released figures which showed that from 2005 to 2007, 51 players who represented Samoa internationally played their first-class or club rugby in New Zealand.

During the same period, only nine Samoan-born players represented the All Blacks and one, Jerome Kaino, was from American Samoa.

From the Samoan squad for the 2007 World Cup, 12 players were born in New Zealand and six others spent the majority of their careers playing there.

Sapa-AFP –

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