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IRB want to avoid Samoa repeat

The International Rugby Board admits steps must be taken to ensure there is no repeat of Samoa's off-field row at next year's World Cup.

Samoa's players had threatened to boycott their match against England at Twickenham on Saturday in protest against their treatment by the Samoa Rugby Union.

IRB chief executive Brett Gosper said the Samoa Rugby Union, the players, the International Rugby Players' Association and the IRB have held talks to resolve the issue and "there is no threat to the game whatsoever at Twickenham".

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, speaking at the World Rugby ConfEx, continued: "The first priority was to get the game in place at Twickenham and that has been achieved.

"We are in discussion with the Samoans - I have had a personal letter from the president of the Samoa Rugby Union which I have responded to and we have opened discussions with the players themselves.

"It is too early to decide what the profile will be for the future but it is important we listen and continue to work together.

"There is no solution at the moment. It was just important we confirm what the Samoan players did today - that they will play against England."

The threat to strike was first issued three weeks ago when the Samoan players submitted a draft press release to the IRB, in which they stated their grievances against the Samoa Rugby Union.

The issue highlights the need for engagement with unions of less established rugby nations, particularly with the start of the World Cup in England just 10 months away.

"We have to respect the unions and we need to establish a very confident relationship with the chairmen of the unions," Lapasset said.

"It is important they know what we are doing for the format of the competition and for the rights of the professional player.

"It is important we discuss these things more formally with the unions so we can confirm participation in the competitions we have in the future."

Asked whether there was a need to examine how the IRB's funding is being used with regards to Samoa, Gosper said there are "very stringent criteria" already in place but refused to rule out further investigations.

The IRB chief also said the governing body are considering a ban on players using mobile phones at certain times during the World Cup to protect the game against gambling and corruption.

"That's on the table to be investigated. We haven't made a call on that yet," Gosper said.

"We're comparing some of the protocols in other sports and we'll take a decision on that in the next few months.

"We certainly don't want to apply anything that's overly-draconian or that doesn't take into consideration the normal way the modern player may use his phone.

"But we have to make sure we're not taking risks in the gambling area.

"It's a balance and we'll try and get that right when we make that call."


From Belfast Telegraph