LONDON - England's players decided not to donate a slice of their match fees from Saturday’s clash with Samoa to the islanders for fear it could cast doubts on their sporting integrity.
England will earn £22,000 a man at Twickenham while the Samoans receive £650 for each appearance and their union is on the brink of bankruptcy. The problem is so acute that a website is currently seeking to generate emergency funds. Two of England’s leading Polynesian stars - Manu Tuilagi and Mako Vunipola - had suggested the England squad should consider giving a small cut of their match fees to the visitors, but there were misgivings.
"Our concern is over the ethics of paying an opposition to play against you and the future issues it might create. Not so much opposition asking for pay but the potential for it to look like, 'We’ve paid you before, now you owe us a favour'. It’s above our station as players. It’s not for us to get involved in the politics of paying people," prop Dane Cole said.
Cole is alert to the bigger picture of Samoa and the other island teams operating against a backdrop of regular financial turmoil. He and his team-mates are also aware of their fortunate fiscal status and said: "There’s probably some envy at what we get paid and the facilities we have. As players you want the best facilities, best training, all that stuff. We probably do have those things, with the backing of our union.
"When you hear about some of the struggles other nations have, and then we have these facilities, I can see why everyone else would want that. The issues are not player-to-player. The issue is with the unions and World Rugby. I would love for other nations to get paid what we get paid."
Samoa’s performances have suffered during their financial struggles and they are yet to qualify for the World Cup. Their players will earn a pittance on Saturday but fly-half Tim Nanai-Williams said: "It is not about the money for us. That stuff is out of our hands. We want to put Samoa back on the map. We’ve been ranked 17th, lost to Romania and we want to make amends."
The high-profile Test at Twickenham will serve as a shop window for many of the Samoan players. Scrum-half Melani Matavao currently earns just 45p per day in Samoa, while lock Fa’atiga Lemalu is unemployed after being sidelined by injury.
"We want to promote those boys," said Nanai-Williams. "We want to play our own game. Samoa like to throw the ball around and there may be a few individuals who want to catch the eye of clubs."