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England players will consider donating fees to Samoa, says Anthony Watson

The Guardian logo The Guardian 08/11/2017 Gerard Meagher
Anthony Watson: England’s Anthony Watson says donating some of their £22,000 match fees to Samoa ‘is definitely something we will discuss going into that week.’ © Rex/Shutterstock England’s Anthony Watson says donating some of their £22,000 match fees to Samoa ‘is definitely something we will discuss going into that week.’

Anthony Watson has revealed the England squad will consider donating some of their £22,000 match fees to their Samoan counterparts this month after the Pacific island’s union was declared bankrupt by its chairman.

The Rugby Football Union has agreed to give £75,000 to the cash-strapped Samoan union but has ruled out sharing the match-day revenue of their fixture on 25 November, which will be in excess of £5m. The Samoan union has claimed, however, that it cannot afford to pay its players, who are due to earn £650 a match during the autumn.

The Samoan prime minster, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also chairman of the union, has claimed half of the Twickenham gate receipts would sustain the organisation for two years but the RFU says World Rugby guidelines do not allow for such a deal.

Related: Leo: World Rugby needs to step up (Sky Sports)

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Instead it is making a “goodwill gesture” but when asked if England players, who are due to earn 30 times more than Samoa’s, would contribute, Watson said: “It is definitely something we will discuss going into that week. Across the Premiership everyone appreciates what Samoan rugby players do and they are the most naturally gifted players on the planet.”

Despite agreeing to the same donation it gave to Fiji last autumn, the RFU is wary of intervening in a dispute between the Samoan union and the sport’s governing body, World Rugby, and has revealed it is yet to receive confirmation of the bankruptcy, aside from a newspaper interview with Malielegaoi. He told the Samoa Observer: “We are bankrupt. In other words we are insolvent. It means the union cannot continue to pay off our debts with the banks. We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play.”

More on MSN: Samoan rugby declared bankrupt plunging game against England into doubt

Malielegaoi added that the union could not afford to insure its players for the autumn fixtures, initially casting doubt on Samoa’s games against Scotland on Saturday and England this month. It is understood, however, that World Rugby underwrites insurance for players during the official November window and pays for flights while England and Scotland will cover costs in the lead-up to their matches. On Wednesday night the RFU did not consider England’s match against Samoa to be in doubt.

A World Rugby spokesperson said: “World Rugby is committed to assisting the Samoa union’s high-performance programme and increased its direct and indirect union investment to £1.5m in 2017. Specifically, for the November window, this support package includes insurance cover, underwriting assembly costs for a pre-tour camp, flights to and from Europe and participation in the Americas Pacific Challenge, a preparation and development tournament.”

Watson, meanwhile, will on Thursday be named in England’s starting XV to face Argentina despite suggestions earlier in the season he would be rested for the autumn campaign after his exertions with the British & Irish Lions. Elliot Daly, another who started all three Lions Tests, is also set to cap a remarkable comeback from a knee injury by taking his place against the Pumas on Saturday, with Jonny May all but out of contention because of a hamstring problem.

Wasps last week revealed that Daly had torn a knee ligament and was a doubt for the entire series but he was called into camp by England on Sunday and has been declared fit and ready to face Argentina.

Eddie Jones picked all 10 of England’s 2017 Lions in his 26-man squad on Tuesday, including Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje. He has hinted at giving a number of them a breather across the autumn campaign, however, and while at least eight will play against the Pumas, the indications this week have been that Farrell and Itoje may be rested.

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