LONDON — Samoa captain Chris Vui agreed with the England players’ decision not to share their match fees and said it’s not their battle to fight.
The Samoa Rugby Union announced this month it was bankrupt, though World Rugby has since said it wasn’t.
England plays Samoa on Saturday at Twickenham, and prop Mako Vunipola suggested the England players gift 1,000 pounds ($1,300) of their 22,000 pounds ($29,000) match fee to Samoa players who are being paid 650 pounds ($860).
But the players decided not to gift some of their match fees on ethical grounds. Veteran prop Dan Cole said it shouldn’t even be a players’ call.
“It’s important we don’t get that because we are here to play rugby. We don’t want the likes of Dan Cole to have to help,” Vui said.
“I think England care, but we are solely here to play rugby. It’s not their problem to have to give us money. They get a good pay package and that’s a reward for England’s rugby players. There is a big gap but hopefully that gap between pay packets will even out in the future.”
The England players sympathized with Samoa’s plight, Cole said.
“The decision was made along the ethics of paying an opposition to play against you, and the future issues that might create,” Cole said.
“It was not so much about opposition asking for pay, but the potential for the scenario of, ‘We’ve paid you before, now you owe us a favor.’
“I would love for other nations to get paid what we get paid, but it’s above our station as players. We play the game against every opposition, whoever they are, and it’s not for us to get involved in the politics of paying people.”
England’s Rugby Football Union has already promised to give Samoa 75,000 pounds ($99,700) as a goodwill gesture, as it did for Fiji last year. But it will not share any of the matchday revenue from a sold-out Twickenham of about 5 million pounds ($6.6 million).
Cole said Samoa’s financial issue needed to be dealt with at union level.
“You need to go above players, you need to go to the unions, you need to go to World Rugby, and you need to address it at that level rather than just making this an England versus Samoa issue,” he told the BBC.
“The political side of things, the contracts that are signed, are negotiated away from our field. Are you going to ask every union: Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Wales? You need to get everyone together – it’s not just an England campaign.”
World Rugby has said it has administrative issues with the Samoa union, which is run by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
England coach Eddie Jones said: “It always comes down to leadership, and at the moment Samoa is struggling in leadership.”
Cole said the Samoa players deserved to be paid more, and it was vital that teams such as Manu Samoa are able to compete on the global stage.
“You don’t want just two or three superpowers playing – that will eventually harm the game,” he said. “You want as many different international teams playing.”