The latest impasse is nothing new in relations between the Manu Samoa players and the Samoan Rugby Union during the professional era.

In 2000, Fay Richwhite, through its subsidiary Manu Samoa Rugby Limited, withdrew its backing from the Manu Samoa tour to Wales and Scotland. The Samoan Rugby Union, fearful that those unions would not reciprocate by touring Samoa, decided to tour anyway. Up to 25 leading players withdrew. They were not penalised.

It was generally accepted that Fay Richwhite's governance of Samoan rugby, from 1995 to the mid-2000s, was sound. But since then, Manu Samoa has battled to move up the rankings while having the millstone of an inefficient and often overbearing administration.

The SRU suffered acute embarrassment in 2012 when it announced Australian Adrian Thompson as the new Manu Samoa coach. But Thompson had not agreed terms, as he did not want to be based in Samoa.


A solid coaching team, which included former Fiji captain Greg Smith and former Manu Samoa skipper Pat Lam, helped Samoa rise as high as seventh in the rankings by November 2012.

But the issues raised by Mahonri Schwalger after the 2011 Rugby World Cup, where a $12,000 budget for laundry "disappeared", balls went missing, and management treated the RWC as a holiday, had clearly not been addressed.

You do not have to go far to obtain further details of recent issues. The words "debacle" and "shambolic" crop up a lot. There was interference in selection, late payment for players and coaching staff, an army medic from Fiji being used as physio, missing receipt books, injured players having to play as there were not enough replacement players on tour.

Some players were forced to pay their own fares back from Europe to play in the June window, and this became accepted as norm by the powers-that-be within the union.

But rugby has come a long way since the late, great Peter Fatialofa and Manu Samoa had to walk 20 minutes for lunch on the 1988 tour of the UK.

Searching questions need to be asked of the Samoan board, where vice-president Harry Schuster, who was criticised by Schwalger, wields great power, and is an Opposition politician.

The IRB (now World Rugby) should be investigating why its man in Oceania -- Australian Peter Horne, who was based in Samoa -- allowed much of this to occur and how much he knew.

The Samoan practice of mea'alofa, whereby people donate gifts of money, has often seen cash disappear into "black holes". There is little accountability and no paper trail. The more well-off players have been known to pay for certain things out of their own pockets on tour, such as extra masseurs, rather than wait on management.


While the present grievances of the Manu Samoa side have been aired in graphic detail via lock Daniel Leo in the past week, the saga has gained oxygen with the widespread support on social media for Samoa United.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi, the chairman of the union, has already said the matter is "resolved", which seems extraordinary when the SRU, IRB, the Pacific Island Players' Association (PIPA) and IRPA have not yet sat around the table with the players to hammer out the differences.

The Weekend Herald contacted SRU chief executive Fred Amoa, who said: "The chairman of the SRU has issued a statement and we're going to leave it at that."

Presumably Amoa is talking about Tuilaepa's assertion that everything is well again in Samoan rugby.

"I explained to them that their function is to play. You don't get yourselves involved in management. No players anywhere will do that," the PM told One News three days ago.

Maybe he hasn't heard that PIPA was set up just last year to give a voice to Pacific Island rugby pros, or that the All Blacks and Brumbies, among others, have instituted inclusive cultures for close to a decade or more.

This is yet another clash between the hierarchical nature of Samoan society and the professional rugby landscape. You don't hear much out of the Samoan Sevens squad, as most are Samoan-based and do what they are told.

But the majority of Manu Samoa's best players ply their trade in Japan and Europe, where, notwithstanding the difficulties of playing for their country in the June and November windows (the IRB's regulation 9 clause is often abused), they come from professional environments where insurance, medical and financial details are sorted.

The New Zealand Rugby Union are no doubt watching developments intently, though not adding fuel to the fire.

"This situation is one between the Samoan players and their union and not one for New Zealand Rugby to express an opinion about. We continue to work with Samoa Rugby on the July fixture and are looking forward to taking the All Blacks to Apia," said chief executive Steve Tew.

Asked whether difficulties dealing with the SRU have contributed to the time it has taken to make this clash happen in Apia, Tew said: "As we have said before, the main reason we haven't been able to entertain a test match in the Pacific has been about scheduling pressures in a normal year."

Rugby row?

• What does new Manu Samoa sponsor, the Cromwell Property Group, think about all this after it pledged $250,000 to the team should they make the RWC semifinals, or $1 million if they win the tournament?

• Then IRB chief executive Mike Miller publicly asked in 2011 why the SRU was fundraising when the IRB was picking up all the RWC tab for each team.

• Almost every major national team has backed the Manu Samoa players in their dispute.