World Rugby has stepped in to give Samoa more time to prepare for their 2019 Rugby World Cup playoff by rescheduling their qualification matches and will ensure players are released.
It comes amid continued uncertainty on who they will play in a playoff. Samoa were due to face either Spain or Portugal for a place in Pool A, alongside Ireland, Japan, Scotland and Romania.
But with Romania, Spain and Belgium all sensationally kicked out of the tournament and heavily fined over fielding ineligible players, it means that Germany will now take on Portugal for the right to play the Pacific Islanders. However all three countries have 14 days to appeal the decision of an independent panel.
In a statement World Rugby said the new programme of matches in June and July “will provide certainty for the union, players and fans, while maximising preparation in advance of the qualifiers”
“Rescheduling is necessary to maximise time following the conclusion of independent disputes committee review of matters relating to the 2017-18 Rugby Europe Championship, a competition run by Rugby Europe that doubles as Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification.”
“Subject to any appeal of the disputes committee’s decision, the winner of the European play-off between Germany and Portugal, provisionally scheduled for 9 June will play Samoa home and away in the play-off to determine the final Pool A place. The first leg will be played in Apia on 30 June with the return leg in Europe on 14 July.”
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If Samoa do get through they will be in Pool A would then join Ireland, Scotland, Japan and new Europe 1 winners Russia in Pool A. If they were to be defeated would play in the Repechage competition in November.
World Rugby added “The rescheduled dates will enable the least-possible disruption for Samoa’s European and Southern Hemisphere based players, who will be released under Regulation 9, which covers all Rugby World Cup qualifiers. It also enables all qualifiers to be completed prior to the Repechage competition.”
“In order to maximise Samoa’s preparation for these important matches, World Rugby is also funding Samoa’s entry into the 2018 World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup in Fiji between 9-16 June, which features Fiji, Georgia and Tonga.”
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