27 Jun 2017

Sport: SRU rejects allegations of mistreatment

11:49 am on 27 June 2017

The Samoa Under 20s coach has rejected allegations of severe mistreatment against the Samoa Rugby Union, saying the family of the player who made the claims only did so because their son was dropped from the team.

Ethan Lolesio's family wrote an open letter to Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, in his capacity as Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union.

The Australian-based player was part of the squad that competed in the Oceania Championship in Australia but after returning to Samoa the coach, Junior Leota, was replaced by Mahonri Schwalger and Lolesio was dropped from the team to compete at the Under 20 World Cup in Georgia.

Australia scores another try on their way to a 43-20 victory

Ethan Lolesio represented Samoa at the Oceania U20 Championship but was dropped for the World Cup. Photo: Oceania Rugby / Sportography

Schwalger said the allegations against the SRU would never have been made if the player had been selected.

"There will be some parents that are not happy at not picking their child in the team but that's just the way it is," he said.

"Here in Samoa the HPU (High Performance Unit) and the [Samoa] Rugby Union facility is one of the best so I don't see where all those accusations are coming from.

"These kids are fed well, they have five meals a day so every parent wants the best for their kid and I guess some parents will come out if their kid is not getting picked for the World Cup."

Former Manu Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger taking a scrum session at the Rugby Academy of Samoa.

Mahonri Schwalger Photo: Rugby Academy Samoa

Mahonri Schwalger joined the Samoan team as a technical advisor for the Oceania U20 Championship in April and May.

He acknowledged there were some issues in the camp, which he was asked to address after replacing Leota as head coach.

"They had a few problems through the coaches and it's just that communication line and that's the reason why the coaches stepped down," he said.

"Because there was a lot of things that didn't go well for them, between the players and the parents, and they sort of hired me to try and step in and try to fix that but obviously things didn't go well to the World Cup and obviously the son of the parents didn't make the team and now they're all coming out [in the media].

"It's pretty tough. We've got to make sure that we take the positives out of it and the Rugby Union they're run by really professional people.

"And I'm not saying they're perfect, I'm not saying they will never make mistakes but obviously this kid is really disappointed he didn't go to the World Cup."

SRU defends facilities and medical care

The letter stated Lolesio had to receive medical treatment in Samoa because he had multiple boils on his body due to the conditions of his accommodation.

Mahonri Schwalger said the players had full access to medical professionals and must take some personal responsibility.

"It's a tropical island and the thing is in a tropical island if you don't look after yourself well, in terms of your nutrition and what you eat...these kids, in the Rugby Union they feed them five meals. They have a nutritionist as well," he said.

"These kids, when they don't get what they want to eat they go back out in town and eat something different and the other thing is well is hygiene as well, where they're staying."

"I know the kid, he's pretty spoiled and he's one of those kids that he wants to get everything on the plate and it's pretty sad because it wasn't just only him that had the boil -

probably about seven-eight kids in the team had the boil," Schwalger said.

"When you have a scratch here in the island if you don't look after it, look after yourself by showering and trying to cover it up it will turn up into be boils...it's all about trying to look after yourself well."

"The Rugby Union...have physios and doctors there all the time and we have complained because some of these kids don't even go and see the doctors. There's always two sides of the story," he argued.

Samoa take on New Zealand at the Oceania Rugby Under 20 Championship.

Samoa take on New Zealand at the Oceania Rugby Under 20 Championship. Photo: Oceania Rugby/Sportography

Other players back SRU

RNZ International has also spoken to the family of another player in the squad, who did attend the World Cup.

They said no such mistreatment occurred and the Lolesio family were friends with the previous coach, who had guaranteed their son a spot in the final squad and were obviously upset when this didn't happen.

Schwalger agreed this was a factor.

"The thing is if this kid was in the squad he would never complain but obviously we didn't pick him and he came out [in the media]. There's a lot of things going [on], because I wasn't there from the beginning but I see what happened in that environment and obviously the last coach didn't try and solve the problem.

"He sort of let it spread instead of trying to solve the problem."

The Samoa Rugby Union has firmly denied the allegations and said it would release further information shortly.

Samoa perform the Siva Tau at the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Samoa perform the Siva Tau at the World Rugby U20 Championship. Photo: Lasha Kuprashvili / World Rugby

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