Burdon: Samoa test won't help Island players

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 31/05/2014

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OPINION: Apparently, the All Blacks have some sort of moral imperative to play a game in Samoa.

Why?

There's no argument that New Zealand and Samoa share a great geographical and cultural affinity, something that has seen some outstanding players of Samoan ancestry pull on the black jersey over the years. The fact the All Blacks have never played there seems a strange anomaly, but what would a one-off test in Apia actually achieve?

Would it just allow New Zealand rugby to assuage a bit of guilt at the way it has treated Pacific Island rugby over the years?

Surely it would be a lot more meaningful to take a closer look at the rules that currently block Island players from representing their countries, or the mercenary approach New Zealand rugby takes with young players from the Pacific.

Highlanders wing Patrick Osborne had to put any dreams of playing for Fiji on hold in order to sign with Canterbury.

The choice was simple - contract or country.

He can't represent his country and still be eligible for the Highlanders, because they've already filled their quota of international players.

Island players want to earn a fat Super Rugby contract because it will help to support their families without them having to trek to the other side of the world to ply their trade, but they have to turn their back on their countries to do so.

Malakai Fekitoa wasn't eligible to play for New Zealand when he first came here on a rugby scholarship as a teenager, but he was being included in national training squads even though he couldn't be selected.

Talented Polynesian rugby players are given the opportunity to gain an education and take out a ticket in the New Zealand rugby system, but the best are watched like hawks to see whether they are good enough to be future All Blacks.

There's something predatory about the whole thing.

Surely allowing Polynesian players the opportunity to play Super Rugby but still be available for their home countries would be a lot more meaningful than merely correcting a statistic.

New Zealand rugby has a duty of care to New Zealand rugby, not the Pacific Islands - that's the IRB's job.

Promoting the team in new markets, building the base of potential sponsors and supporters, should bring more money in the NZRU coffers and more opportunity to help Pacific Island players with New Zealand contracts, if New Zealand rugby is serious about doing that.

Cricket's own cancer

It's been difficult to follow the developing match-fixing scandal embroiling cricket without thinking about the parallels with cycling's battle with performance-enhancing drugs.

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Greed, low cunning and ineffectual leadership seem to be the common denominators here.

In both cases, the ICC and the UCI have been to slow to act and largely toothless when they have finally stirred.

In the case of cycling, spectators became so cynical that any out-of-the-ordinary performance was met with speculation and derision.

What will the cricketing landscape look like as the naivety of cricket fans inevitably wears away? What do you see now when a player drops one cold in the outfield? When a bowling attack dishes up a diet of half trackers and a Corey Anderson hits a million off 10 balls?

Illegal betting - and the natural progression into match-fixing - might have its home in India but its tentacles appear to reach around the cricketing world, including our doorstep.

Our time for being blissfully unaware is done.

- The Southland Times

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