Manu Samoa and Bristol flanker Jack Lam hopes an insurance issue between Premiership Rugby Limited (P.R.L.) and World Rugby won’t affect the Rugby World Cup preparations of Samoan players based in England.
All professional clubs are due compensation for injuries that take place during official Test windows, but P.R.L. have grown tired of slow payments from some international unions, and have asked World Rugby to act.
The Guardian reports that unless the dispute between the two parties is resolved, P.R.L. will prevent non-English players from joining their national teams until mid-August when the official Test window opens, just 35 days before the World Cup begins.
A key part of Samoa’s World Cup buildup is the Pacific Nations Cup, with the Manu to play Tonga in Apia on July 27th, then U.S.A. and Fiji in Suva on August 3rd and 11th.
Lam, who captained Samoa over the recent November tour, said he’s just been made aware of the situation over the last 24 hours.
“We’ve been assured that the Rugby Players’ Association are on top of it, to ensure us international players can get releases from our clubs.
“Any game you can play for Samoa is important, especially being at home before the World Cup.
“It’s still early in the process, so hopefully we can resolve it before then.”
Lam said he could definitely understand P.R.L.’s concern, given the amount of money that goes into insurance.
“It’s fair enough for them, but at the same time you want a fair playing ground for all nations.”
The England Rugby Football Union signed a £220 million Professional Game Agreement with P.R.L. in 2016 which means they can get their players released from the clubs.
Of the Manu Samoa November tour squad of 31, eleven players are at Premiership Rugby clubs.
Jack Lam’s Bristol Bears alone have James and Jordan Lay, Alapati Leiua and Tusi Pisi on their books, as well as Manu captain Chris Vui who missed the November tour through injury.
Bristol sit 7th of 12 Premiership clubs with three games remaining in the round robin.
Lam said the team have been building quite nicely in the last couple of weeks.
“With Charles Piutau and Chris Vui coming back in, we’ve got a few good results.”
A young Bristol side featuring many academy players beat La Rochelle in the European Champions Cup last weekend.
“To go away to France and beat them in their own backyard was huge,” Lam said.
“It shows the trust [coach] Pat Lam has in the players to let them go against quality opposition.
“And the strength in depth we now have, which is new this year.”
Jack Lam has been at Bristol since 2014, when the club were in the 2nd tier Championship.
His cousin and coach Pat Lam took over at the club in 2017, and Jack said they are building a real family atmosphere.
“Pat has tried to involve everyone, from the owners all the way down to the U18 players.
“Where previously there was a bit of a gap we now have a strong team culture.
“It stretches to Bristol Ladies too, and we even have a good relationship with Bristol City Football Club.”
On top of the Manu Samoa contingent, former All Blacks John Afoa, Steven Luatua and Charles Piutau, as well as his brother Siale and fellow Tongan international Sione Faletau give Bristol Bears a real Polynesian flavour.
“When I started here it was just the three of us: David Lemi, Anthony Perenise and myself,” Jack Lam said.
“It’s now quite a big crew, and all coming from that New Zealand/Island background, we are pretty tight and that extends to the club as a whole.”
Bristol play Sale Sharks this weekend , looking to close the five point gap between them and a playoff place.