Samoans are closer together after strike is averted

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Samoa captain David Lemi claims the off-field controversy surrounding his players has galvanised the dressing room ahead of tomorrow’s match against England.

The tourists had threatened to boycott the game at Twickenham in protest against their treatment at the hands of the Samoa Rugby Union but it was confirmed this week that the strike had been called off.

Lemi insists the off-field row has been a help not a hindrance to his team’s preparations.

“It has brought us together and given us more tightness in our preparation and focus for Saturday,” he said.

“It’s a massive opportunity for us – it has been a while since we played England so we are grateful to have this chance going into the World Cup.

“It is a good test for us – we play the tier two nations but to play against a top five side in the world is a test for us and will tell us where we are ahead of the World Cup.”

Team manager Sami Leota insisted he was not aware of any plans for the players to stage a visual protest during the game.

World Rugby (formerly known as the International Rugby Board) and the International Rugby Players’ Association have been involved in discussions but the Samoa Rugby Union has so far refused to attend talks.

Leota also claimed to be unaware of a cancelled meeting yesterday between players and Union officials.

Samoa have made six changes to the starting XV that beat Canada 23-13 last Friday.

Ken Pisi is at full-back, John Leota comes into inside centre and Tusiata Pisi starts at fly-half, while a new-look forward line includes Jack Lam, Kane Thompson and Ti’i Paulo.

Samoa: K Pisi; A Leiua, R Lee Lo, J Leota, D Lemi (capt), T Pisi, K Fotuali; O Treviranus, J Lam, M Faasavalu, K Thompson, Teofilo Paulo, C Johnston, Tii Paulo, S Taulafo. Replacements: M Leiataua, V Afatia, A Perenise, F Lemalu, D Leo, T J Ioane, P Cowley, M Stanley.