All Blacks tweet Samoa support

2014-11-20 09:06
Sonny Bill Williams (Getty Images)

Wellington - Several senior All Blacks publicly backed Samoa's players on Thursday over a dispute with the Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) and its chairperson, the island nation's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

A group of 10 New Zealand players, including superstars Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams, tweeted a picture of themselves holding a sign saying #SamoaUnited, which Williams tweeted with the message "Supporting our Samoan brothers".

The #SamoaUnited hashtag has become a social media rallying point for the team, which this week dropped a threat to boycott Saturday's Test against England over their grievances, which have been festering since the last Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Thousands have tweeted their support, including ex-Wallaby Matt Giteau and All Black legend Tana Umaga.

The Samoa Observer reported this week that the players' complaints included an alleged lack of financial transparency in the SRU, with players being expected to pay air fares and coaches being denied a free-rein on selection.

Lock Dan Leo said the Twickenham boycott threat was an "extreme" tactic borne from long-standing frustration about how the game is being run in Samoa, including an alleged lack of funds at grassroots level.

Leo said the strike was abandoned after the players were told there would be reprisals against Samoa if it went ahead, including cancellation of a planned Test match against New Zealand in Apia next July.

"We were told if we went ahead we would lose the All Blacks game next year, Olympic participation and the World Cup," he told Britain's Daily Telegraph this week.

"We would never deprive our people of that. We want them to be proud of us, for taking a stand and then for playing with pride in the shirt at Twickenham on Saturday."

Instead, Samoan players will reportedly make their position known by wearing black armbands during Saturday's Test.

Samoa is the top performing Pacific island nation and has twice reached the World Cup quarter-finals, as well as recording wins against top-tier countries such as Australia, Wales and Scotland in recent years.

Player disquiet first became public after the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, when the then-captain Mahonri Schwalger wrote a damning report accusing officials of treating the tournament like a holiday and concentrating more on drinking than their professional duties.

Instead of sparking wholesale reform, Schwalger and several players who backed him, including outspoken centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, were frozen out of the team, ending their international careers.

Malielegaoi has dismissed the latest grievances as the "opinions of little kids" and told players to resign if they are not happy.

Liam Messam's #SamoaUnited tweet:


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