Samoa drop Schwalger and Fuimaono-Sapolu

The Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) have dropped captain Mahonri Schwalger and entre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu for the Pacific Nations Cup and a one-off Test with Scotland.


Schwalger has been dropped following stinging criticism of the team management’s conduct at last year’s Rugby World Cup.


New coach Stephen Betham did not include Schwalger in a 35-man training squad ahead of next month’s Pacific Nations Cup and a one-off Test with Scotland in Apia.


Betham also axed centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, who generated controversy at the World Cup in New Zealand with an angry Twitter rant accusing Welsh referee Nigel Owens of racism after Samoa’s 13-5 loss to South Africa.


The coach said Schwalger was left out due to his age but the 31-year-old hooker told the Samoa Observer he believed it was because he spoke out about management of the team, known as Manu Samoa, at the World Cup.


“I knew it would cost me my international career,” he told the newspaper.


“If it means that the Manu will go forward without me then that’s a sacrifice I will take.”


Samoa disappointed at the World Cup, failing to reach the knockout stage, and Schwalger provided a damning assessment of management’s performance at the tournament in a report to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.


He said officials would disappear for days at a time, engaged in drinking binges at the team hotel and treated the event as a holiday. Most of those he criticised have since left the SRU.


Schwalger, whose Waikato Chiefs are second on the Super 15 ladder, said he had no warning about being dropped and still felt he could make a contribution to the national team.


“Age means nothing, selection should be based on performance, not age,” he told the Observer.


“Look at some of the top players in the world, they are in their mid 30s and still the best in their positions.”


Fuimaono-Sapolu, who will play club rugby in Japan next season after leaving British side Gloucester, said on Twitter that he was “gutted” at his omission.


“Word is, once again, someone’s tampering with my international career,” he wrote.


Betham told the Observer that the International Rugby Board (IRB) did not want Fuimaono-Sapolu in the team.


“The International Rugby Board has ruled against Eliota playing rugby in IRB-run tournaments,” he said. “It was made known in a letter.”

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