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Samoa: We faced World Cup ban

Samoa's senior players only agreed to call off boycotting Saturday's England match after claiming to be threatened with expulsion from next year's World Cup.

Toulouse prop Census Johnston has revealed Samoa's players received a series of warnings from rugby chiefs after their threats to walk out of this weekend's autumn Test at Twickenham.

The 33-year-old front-rower said Samoa feared next year's Test visit of New Zealand to Apia would have also come under threat had the squad gone through with strike threats.

Johnston said Samoa's players have only relented on their planned strike action to safeguard crucial future opportunities for the country's rugby-focused economy and public.

"Rugby's huge for the country, and when we were looking at boycotting this game, we took it upon ourselves to think about the Samoan people," said Johnston.

"If we didn't go through with the game, then there were chances of losing the game against the All Blacks and being kicked out of the World Cup."

Johnston refused to name the source of the threats, despite hinting heavily at involvement from World Rugby, which has changed its name from the International Rugby Board (IRB).

Chief executive Brett Gosper rejected suggestions World Rugby threatened to expel Samoa from the World Cup if they failed to face England this weekend.

Gosper did however admit that "all sanctions" would be considered if a national side forced a high-profile strike.

"If a nation doesn't turn up for a major rugby game like that, certainly World Rugby would have to look into sanctions in such an order," said Gosper.

"It's a very serious situation not to turn up to a major game: so all of those things would be looked at if that was to happen.

"These aren't threats, this is a natural part of the game and how we manage to ensure international matches happen at the top level."

Samoa's senior stars last week threatened to boycott Saturday's England match over long-held concerns of administrative mismanagement by the country's rugby union.

World Rugby and the International Rugby Players' Association have both stepped in to mediate, but the Samoa Rugby Union has so far refused to attend meetings.

Samoa's prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele, also the rugby union's chairman, labelled the players "spoilt children" in a bid to force through Saturday's clash against England.

Johnston said Samoa's senior stars hope to hold talks with union officials later this week, but conceded they are yet to receive a response despite repeated invitations.

"Well we're waiting for them to come to the table at the moment, we haven't heard anything back," said Johnston, who hinted at an on-pitch protest against England this weekend.

"We're voicing our concerns as senior players, to provide a good future for Samoan rugby.

"Now we're waiting for the rugby union to front up.

"When we were looking at boycotting this game, we took it upon ourselves to put the country and Samoan people first before ourselves."

Former Saracens prop Johnston admitted the senior stars who led last week's revolt now fear union bosses could bring their careers to a premature end.

"With what's gone on already, we just don't know whether this will affect selection into the team in future for senior players," he said.

"It's a sacrifice we're willing to make.

"If we're not involved in future it would be gut-wrenching, but that's what we've decided to do.

"It's about getting people involved who can help Samoan rugby, and getting the money going to the right places."

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