Governor receives official notice of full IRB membership
Gov. Togiola Tulafono, chairman of the American Samoa Rugby Union, received yesterday confirmation that the local rugby union is officially admitted as a full member of the International Rugby Board, the world governing body of rugby.
The governor was first informed Tuesday night of the IRB decision via e-mail from Lefau Harry Schuster, president of the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU), who attended the IRB meeting in Ireland, where the decision was reached.
In a statement yesterday, the governor said he received from David Carrigy, vice president of IRB for External Affairs, a letter notifying him that the local rugby union has been officially admitted as a full member of IRB, and advising the union of the privileges and responsibilities of such membership.
“I thank the IRB for this blessing and the expression of confidence in us, and we will endeavor to live up to the rigors of such membership and do our part to promote rugby as a way of developing our youth in American Samoa,” he said.
“Our young people now have the opportunities to be exposed to international competition and potential employment that was not available to them before,” he said.
Togiola has said publicly that once American Samoa gets full membership, that will provide additional funding to recruit staffers as well as coaches and others to work with the team, which means more job opportunities for the territory.
He also said that any youngster in the territory unable to gain an American football scholarship can fully participate in the local rugby team, to further improve their skills for international competition.
He also stated that rugby can provide many opportunity for players, who can advance further in their rugby career and can even be recruited by major countries with strong rugby teams.
Togiola said yesterday that ASRU could not have achieved full membership itself and that he is “very grateful and appreciative of the help and assistance” from Lefau “who has worked with us and guided us from the reorganization of the American Samoa Rugby Union two years ago through the reformation of the Constitution and the union affairs, and the process of applying for admission as a full member in a timely manner.”
“We are fortunate to be able to become a member of IRB now that rugby unions from non independent countries can no longer become members of IRB outside of their administering countries,” he said referring to the U.S.
Togiola said last December that there were concerns from the U.S. rugby federation over American Samoa’s application but that has since been clarified, and the American federation has since voiced full support for American Samoa as a permanent member.
“We are the last non- independent country to achieve this, and we must hang on to it for we can never cross this path again if we lose it,” he said yesterday.
Togiola says he is grateful to the Samoa Rugby Union, USA Rugby Union, and the North America and Caribbean Rugby Unions for their support.
“We could have never done this without their support, especially with the guiding hand...of Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, who has extended the assistance of SRU every step of the way towards this achievement,” the governor said.
He also thanked member clubs of the local rugby union “for doing their part to demonstrate that we are a Union that is prepared to take on serious responsibilities and live up to the high standards and expectations of IRB.”
“The more difficult work, however, remains— and that is keeping up our responsibilities as a Union,” he said.
“Our membership will come up for review again in 24 months, to make sure that we continue to do all the right things and are developing the game for men and women of American Samoa in accordance with the rules and regulations of the IRB.”
“That will be a daunting task for the Union, but I have all the confidence that ASRU and its members will meet all expectations,” he said.
By yesterday afternoon, the governor spoke on KSBS-FM to make the announcement in the Samoan language and revealed that during the IRB meeting last November, the decision was made not to accept any more requests from non-independent countries for membership and this decision has affected applications by other world territories, such as French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis & Futuna, which are all French territories.
However, the governor said American Samoa’s application was already pending before the IRB after it was submitted last October. The governor, for the first time, also revealed that he was very concerned that the November decision would have an impact on our application.
He said this blessing for American Samoa is something very important and thanked the public for their support and prayers. He also emphasized the important role Tuilaepa played and thanked the Samoa Rugby union for their strong support.
The governor expressed sincere appreciation to ASRU president Te’o J. Fuavai for his many years working to keep together the local union, support of seeking IRB membership, and the development of rugby in the territory.
In his English remarks, the governor said, it was not his goal to be involved in the administration of the ASRU forever, “but it is my hope that we would develop the union into a very strong and stable union...going into the future that the younger administrators, the younger players will step up and continue to administer, going into the future.”
He commended ASRU president Te’o J. Fuavai for “his persistence in keeping the American Samoa Rugby Union on track.”
“Although we had some issues in the recent past, that caused me to step in to reform and reorganize the union to its present state, it was his (Te’o’s) energy and his vision, hoping that American Samoa could rise up to a different level,” he said.
According to the governor some people who worked with Te’o have passed away or have left the union, but Te’o “has never abandoned the union”.
“So I really take my hat off to him and Falefata Moli Lemana—the two of them are the face of rugby in American Samoa as far as the international family of rugby was concerned,” he said and again thanked IRB for allowing “our young people to be part” of the IRB, “a huge organization.”
He said FORU has been tasked with monitoring American Samoa’s compliance with IRB rules and regulations.