Pressure mounts for All Blacks to play in Samoa

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 25/05/2014

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The pressure continues to mount on the New Zealand Rugby Union to take the All Blacks to Samoa, with an historic test in the Pacific Islands thought to be edging closer to reality.

With Prime Minister John Key in Samoa next week, it's understood the Government is interested in making some progress towards an All Blacks visit.

In election year, Key would strike a huge chord with New Zealand's large Pacific Island community if he was able to broker a fixture, or even claim some progress..

The PM's office referred all inquiries to the "rugby union". NZRU chief Steve Tew was not available to speak on the hot topic, but recently said: "The reality for us is, and I've said it often enough, we have to do what's best for New Zealand Rugby, and playing an All Blacks test match in the islands just doesn't suit our programme. Right now we can't fit one in."

But after TV3 current affairs show Campbell Live took up the baton during the week, the rugby anomaly has once again come under the spotlight.

And if there's one factor, other than money, that will persuade to the NZRU to rethink the issue, it's public pressure.

The All Blacks are an iconic sporting brand, and if head office perceived damage to its image through refusal to go to the islands, its stance could change.

Considering the links between the islands and New Zealand, and the strong Polynesian influence in All Blacks rugby, it's inconceivable to some that they've never played a test in Samoa, Fiji or Tonga.

After confirming a test in Chicago against the US en route to the UK in November, the NZRU has again come under fire.

The Samoa Observer headlined a front-page story on the Chicago test "Shameful Samoa snub" and leading Manu Samoa rugby figures have been vociferous in their desire for a visit.

"There won't be any financial gains but in terms of growing the game, it would be huge," Seilala Mapusua told Fairfax Media. Campbell, whose show trended on Twitter with the hashtag #ABsToSamoa after their item on Thursday night, believes the fixture has to go ahead.

"I would say to the New Zealand Rugby Union ‘do the right thing', and we all know what the right thing is," Campbell said. "Manu Samoa played its first test match in 1925, and in 90 years of Samoan test rugby we have never been there. That is so profoundly wrong ..."

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