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    Lam slams racist critics

    2012-04-11 09:58

    Wellington - Under-fire Blues coach Pat Lam says there is a racial motivation to some of the criticism he and his team have received after a poor start to the Super Rugby season.

    Lam said some critics have concentrated on his Samoan background and the Pacific Island and Maori heritage of many Blues players when attacking the team over the 1-5 start to the season.

    "We totally accept the criticism that we get when we don't perform," an emotional Lam said on Wednesday. "But it's the racist people...the social media and talkback where people say things that are pretty offensive."

    Lam twice broke down during a news conference, saying he was concerned such comments could affect his parents who came to New Zealand from Samoa. Lam said their sacrifices gave him the chance to play rugby to international level - he played one match for the All Blacks and 34 tests for Samoa - and to become a professional coach.

    "It's sad, it really is," he said. "The question about the racist stuff is what I'm upset about.

    "It's different when it's a racial thing. The emotion is about my parents."

    Lam apologized to reporters as he was forced to pause and regather his composure.

    "Certainly, my parents they gave up, um....sorry," he said. "They gave up, sacrificed themselves for us to come here and have a good life. So it hurts my parents. Sorry, sorry."

    Lam said he realised the critics who resorted to racial abuse were a small minority but the comments still stung.

    "I feel for all the guys in the team...Keven Mealamu and his family and all the boys that have Island backgrounds or Maori backgrounds. It's really offensive."

    Lam said he was repelled by the "faceless people" who took advantage of the anonymity of social networks to make racist slurs.

    "It's just sad that we live in a country where people, and it is only a minority - I know that - when they have a forum to speak and say that and people jump on the bandwagon," he said.

    "It's been ongoing. We totally accept the criticism that we get, particularly when people put names on it. It's the faceless people and that's the social media and so forth and talkback where people say things that are pretty offensive."

    Earlier on Wednesday, captain Mealamu said the Blues players retained full confidence in Lam.

    "We do back our coach," heu said. "We want to do that by showing everyone on the field.

    "I'm hurting at the moment. We are working hard to try to get our team back on track. Just really gutted we haven't got the season we wanted at the moment."

    Mealamu took the unusual step of directly criticising his Blues and All Blacks team-mate Weepu for presenting himself at the start of the season at less than full fitness.

    Weepu was a key figure in New Zealand's Rugby World Cup win last October but hit fitness appears to have dropped off severely after an extended break at the end of last season.

    "He's disappointed he turned up in that sort of shape," Mealamu told Radio Sport. "From the team's point of view, he's a player we could definitely do with out there.

    "We're all professionals here, we shouldn't turn up in that sort of shape."


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