Paul Harding
JAPAN 2019

Rugby Europe row rankles with Samoa as they face wait for World Cup qualifier

The Pacific nation is likely to join Ireland in RWC Pool A, but delaying their play-off with a European team could complicate matters for their best players.

SAMOA ARE LIKELY to be Ireland’s Pool A opposition at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but Fiji star Nemani Nadolo is among those taking umbrage as they face a wait before having the opportunity to secure their berth.

With a third-place finish in the Pacific Nations Cup, Samoa were due to play the second-ranked team from Rugby Europe (currently to be Portugal or Spain) in a two-legged play-off in June for the right to take up a spot at Japan 2019.

However, the continuing fall-out from the Rugby Europe competition — which drew unwanted headlines for Spain’s angry reaction to their Romanian referee after their loss to Belgium which sealed Romania’s qualification — means the fixture could be bumped back at least a month.

Lengthy bans were handed down to five Spanish players last month, but the row rumbles on with questions over the eligibility of players fielded by Romania and Belgium.

For Samoa, the upshot of this means their play-off matches against Spain or Portugal scheduled for June, will now not take place until July or August – a time when the Pacific nation’s best players will be under pressure to remain with their clubs to prepare for a new European season.

Samoa centre Kieron Fonotia, who will move from Ospreys to Scarlets next season, tweeted: “I don’t understand why Samoa should be punished over other people’s mistakes.”

Fijian star Nadolo empathised with the situation, saying ‘it’s tough as it is trying to convince our clubs to (allow us) go play for our countries!’

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