WELLINGTON – Crusaders flank Pete Samu appeared to have lost his chance to play for Australia against Ireland this month after New Zealand Rugby said on Saturday that their demands for his release have not been met.
In a trans-Tasman tug-of-war, neither country has officially revealed New Zealand’s stipulations to release Samu, but it is believed they sought NZ$50 000 (US$35 000) to release the 26-year-old Australian-born player from his Crusaders contract.
However, New Zealand Rugby’s head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum said in a statement that the issue had not been resolved.
“We have attempted to resolve this matter in good faith, but our proposals have not been accepted,” Lendrum said.
“New Zealand Rugby remains open to resolving the issues.”
Wallaby coach Michael Cheika, who was forced to omit the explosive flank when he named his squad – but left space for an extra loose forward – expressed bewilderment that money was stopping Samu playing for his country of birth.
“I was a bit surprised to find out that there’s a compensation issue around this,” Cheika told Macquarie Sports Radio.
“I thought the rule that’s been around, about players getting to play in a national week, are preserved.
“The kid’s very keen to play for Australia. I feel a bit for him too, it’s a national call-up, first time.”
New Zealand Rugby, which has already released Hurricanes flank Brad Shields to play for England against South Africa, have said they were entitled to block Samu’s release because while he is eligible for two countries, his contract commits him to New Zealand.
Shields was shown leniency because of his long service in New Zealand.
Samu has already signed to switch to the Brumbies next year, and Crusaders chief Hamish Riach backed his bid to play for the Wallabies.
“He’s Australian, he’s committed to the Brumbies next year, the Wallabies want him and he’s clearly going to play international rugby for the Wallabies at some point,” Riach said.
“So we’re quite happy for that to be sooner rather than later.”
Samu originally played for Randwick in Sydney, before switching to Tasman in the New Zealand provincial championship, from where he was spotted by the Crusaders and earned a Super Rugby contract in 2016.AFP