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Samoa step up player recruitment

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How Samoa are stepping up player recruitment push as World Cup draws closer

Charles Piutau may have been ruled out of bidding for a place in the Tonga 2019 World Cup team, but Samoa are stepping up plans to recruit players for their squad in Japan next year.

Both Pacific Islands nations want to use the HSBC World Seven Series to allow players to switch countries in time to qualify for the World Cup. Players wanting to follow this route must compete in five tournaments on the current Sevens Series, which doubles as an Olympic qualifier, provided they have a passport for the second country and have completed a minimum three year stand-down period.

Manu Samoa coach Steve Jackson told Radio New Zealand “It’s always an avenue. I think Tim Nanai-Williams is probably one of the only people I know that has done that through that avenue, and it’s a difficult one because if you’re talking to guys in Europe they’ve got to be released.

“We’ve had some guys put their hands up and say that they’d be interested but we’ve got to be very, very careful around eligibility rules and make sure that we are absolutely clear who’s available (and) what we need to do to make sure that they can get on the field for us at the Rugby World Cup if we are keen on having them in our group.”

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Samoa will face Six Nations champions Ireland, Scotland, tournament hosts Japan and Russia in their pool at next year’s World Cup and Jackson added: “If we can make it work for some of the guys we’ve got on a list that’d be great but it is a long shot.

“I just hope some decisions in the near future will be best suited for the player because there are some rules that hopefully World Rugby can look at because I think it only hampers the player at the end of the day, his opportunity to play for his country, so I’m pretty sure those guys will sit around a table in the years to come and make some adjustments there.

“They probably wouldn’t be playing in the games before Christmas anyway and that was just a reality because their club seasons have only just started and things like that. The reality is that they wouldn’t be playing until early next year so we’re working behind the scenes at the moment around some of the players that we haven’t contacted directly but just making sure before we do that we’re absolutely clear on what needs to be done.

“We’re talking through the agents and then we’ve got to approach the club – whether it be a Super 15 club, whether it be a club in Europe – because at the end of the day they’re employed by those clubs and then they’ve got to come and play on the sevens circuit.”

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu was hoping to get Bristol’s former All Black Piutau qualified for the Cup and said: “”It got ruled out a couple of months ago. We were actively exploring a group of players, not just Charles, that were in the same boat and whether we could qualify them before the World Cup, and we can’t. It’s just an extra hoop we don’t need players to jump through – the three years alone, stand-down, is fine.”

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How Samoa are stepping up player recruitment push as World Cup draws closer