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Samoan Rugby Union officials say that they debated whether to withdraw from next week’s test against the All Blacks due to the weakened state of their national team.
The All Blacks have some time off the Tri Nations as South Africa and Australia battle it out and they they will take on a severely-depleted Manu Samoa line-up at New Plymouth’s Yarrow Stadium next Wednesday night.
In what will be a blow to their hopes of joining the Tri Nations as a Samoan team they have only managed to secure the release of just three of its regular players from their professional clubs, the Japanese-based trio of captain Filipo Levi and loose forwards George Stowers and Semo Sititi (pictured).
The vast majority of the remaining players are signed with professional clubs in the UK and France but as next week’s encounter does not fit into the International Rugby Board’s agreed international window, clubs are under no obligation to release their players.
SRU chief executive Peter Schuster said it would be a huge challenge putting together a side that could be competitive against the All Blacks.
With that in mind, rugby officials had debated the merits in going ahead with the clash.
“We were thinking about it, how are we going to meet the expectation?,” Schuster told Yahoo!Xtra.
“That was the difficult part for us.”
“We are doing our best to having a team available to compete against New Zealand next week. That is the biggest challenge for us, especially against the All Blacks who have gone from strength to strength.”
“(We were thinking) around about three or four weeks ago, exploring other options. But it was a bit late on our behalf because the IRB had already given their approval for sanctioning the game.
“There is nothing much we can do about it now. People have purchased tickets. So it would be hard for us to pull out of it.”
Schuster said there was huge disappointment in being forced to field a weakened team against the All Blacks.
But at the same time, he said Samoan officials respected the decisions made by European clubs not to release their star players.
When the test was belatedly arranged in June, Samoan officials were hopeful that they would be able to select the majority of their European-based stars for the clash.
“We gave the green light to the rugby union (the NZRU) because they were looking for a game,” he said.
“They had gone to Tonga and Fiji as well.
“Before we made the decision, most of our guys were available, they were playing in the Pacific Nations Cup. They indicated their OK.
“Unfortunately the players have a say, but the bottom line of the final say are the clubs.
“The organisation that runs the premier competition (in England) indicated that they should give their first priority to their club.
“It is an ‘off-game’, it is not part of the international schedule that comes out making the clubs release the players.
“We do understand that and respect that.”
When asked if they hoped to get anyone released from Europe: “It is a dead duck now.
“Only from Japan, those three guys from Japan, the captain and the two loosies. They are the three experienced guys we have in the whole team.”
The Samoan test team will be confirmed following a trial at Auckland’s Western Springs this afternoon.
“We do have some boys available back home. Most of them are involved in the Sevens,” Schuster said.
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