World Rugby hits back at ‘inaccurate’ Samoa PM claims

World Rugby on Tuesday dismissed as "inaccurate" claims from Samoa's prime minister that the sport is bankrupt in the Pacific nation and the governing body interfered in coach selection.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union (SRU), outlined the sport’s financial woes earlier this month, laying the blame on World Rugby.

Appealing for public donations, Malielegaoi said the SRU was bankrupt and could not afford to pay player wages or insurance premiums.

World Rugby, which has previously said there were governance issues at the SRU, disputed the claims.

“World Rugby can clarify that the union is not bankrupt,” the organisation said in a statement, adding that it directly funded the touring Samoa team’s insurance costs.

It also took issue with Malielegaoi’s version of events surrounding the appointment of coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua in September.

He said World Rugby was intent on appointing its own candidate and cut funding for the coach’s position in retaliation when the SRU refused to comply.

World Rugby said an independent panel made recommendations about who should be coach but the SRU decided to go its own way and appoint Tafua anyway.

Tafua was in charge during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, when the extent of the problems facing the SRU began to emerge.

A report penned by former national captain Mahonri Schwalger after the tournament accused management of being unprofessional and treating the event like a holiday.

Then in 2014, players threatened to boycott Samoa’s Test against England at Twickenham due to lack of financial transparency and poor treatment by management.

At the time, Malielegaoi dismissed the player complaints as the “opinions of little kids”.

Samoa will seek the first win of their current tour against England on Saturday after losing 44-38 to Scotland and 17-13 to Romania.

Ahead of the match at Twickenham, England’s Rugby Football Union agreed to make a £75,000 (84,600 euros) goodwill payment to the SRU.

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