<
>

World Rugby defend mud-bath pitch for Samoa-Tonga fixture

TRINA EDWARDS/WORLD RUGBY

World Rugby has defended its decision to allow Saturday's Pacific Nations Cup match between Samoa and Tonga to go ahead in Apia, after several players took umbrage with the playing surface post-match.

Apia Park resembled more of a muddy swimming pool than a rugby pitch after several days of poor weather had lashed the Samoan capital, raising questions as to whether the Test should go ahead.

With both sides needing vital Rugby World Cup warm-up matches and a tight Pacific Nations schedule making a rescheduling of the fixture difficult, Samoa and Tonga took to the field to complete the Test.

But several players took to social media to vent their frustrations following Samoa's 27-15 victory, Tonga's Sam Lousi and Cooper Vuna expressing their anger that the game had been given the green light to go ahead.

Hurricanes lock Lousi posted a picture taken from the television broadcast to Twitter alongside the text: "S/O to @WorldRugby for signing off the field for us to play on today."

Vuna then retweeted Lousi's post and doubled down on World Rugby, the former Wallabies winger asking "Please @WorldRugby enlighten us all on what processes you took to allow this game to go ahead? My question is - if a tier 1 team was to play that day, would the game still go on?"

When contacted by ESPN on Monday, a World Rugby spokesperson said the pitch had met the governing body's standards and that both teams had been consulted pre-match.

"We appreciate the concerns of the Tonga players," the statement read. "However, while the conditions were challenging, the pitch was deemed playable through the usual pitch inspection process and both teams wanted to play the match."

Former Samoa lock Dan Leo, a long-time advocate of Pacific Island rugby, supported the stance of his Tongan counterparts in questioning whether a Tier 1 nation - those involved in the Rugby Championship and Six Nations - would be put in a similar position.

Tonga had earlier been on track for victory until two yellow cards inside the final 13 minutes reduced the visitors to 13 men. Samoa scored two tries during that two-man advantage to wrap up the eight-point victory.

While hopeful his side would never have to play another Test in similar conditions, Tonga coach Toutai Kefu admitted the twin sin-bin offences were to blame for the 12-point defeat.

"I think the penalties and the two yellow cards did it for us in the end," Kehu said.

"It's good to just get a go together under our belts and that's the main thing. I don't think anyone has played in those conditions before so it's good to experience but hopefully, it doesn't happen again but like I said we'll take some positives and some things to work on."

Tonga head to Japan for their next Pacific Nations Cup match against the World Cup hosts, while Samoa will face the United States as part of a double-header in Suva that also sees Fiji battle Canada.