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American Samoa can now dream of World Cup

Perhaps the greatest benefit for American Samoa becoming a full member of the International Rugby Board, is the opportunity to realize a dream —  to someday compete in the World Cup.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono, speaking on his weekend radio program, says with the American Samoa Rugby Union now a full member of the governing body of world rugby, the territory can now work hard to vie for a spot in the World Cup.

The governor first announced that the inaugural high school rugby tournament kicked off late last week and it appears from the games that there are many high school students who want to play rugby, but previously, there had been no high school tournament in place.

(The high school 7s rugby tourney was held last week Friday and Saturday, comprising most of the high schools, both private and government, fielding a team. Samoa News understands the tourney attracted many students, who are also football players, as well as students who have not had the opportunity to play in other high school sports, such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball, etc.)

Togiola said this tournament comes at the right time — with the IRB granting our full membership — and he reiterated earlier statements that American Samoa is the last non- independent country admitted into full membership, after IRB ruled last November, to no longer grant full membership to non- independent countries.

He said territories, or non- independent countries in the Caribbean and the  Pacific were disappointed and complained about the decision, especially for the fact that American Samoa’s application was still pending at the time for consideration.

However, he says the IRB decided to move forward with review of our application, since it had been submitted last October.

According to the governor, the non- independent countries will not have a chance to compete in the World Cup — although they would still be eligible to compete in regional tournaments, such as the Oceania tournaments in this region.

American Samoa, on the other hand, now has a chance to vie to be in the World Cup, he said, adding that this is a great opportunity for local athletes to be contracted and play for other countries.

Late last week, the IRB Council issued an official statement saying that the ASRU has become a full member, after it successfully fulfilled the criteria to be upgraded from associate membership.

Additionally, ASRU has18 affiliated clubs and runs senior men’s, senior women’s and junior competitions under its auspices.

Moreover, ASRU is recognized by the American Samoa National Olympic Committee, and rugby 7s is slated to makes its debut in the 2016 Olympic Games — allowing American Samoa access to this possible opportunity.

IRB was in agreement with an IRB Executive Committee recommendation to approve the application, subject to a review being conducted within 24 months to ascertain ASRU’s continued progression to make sure the ASRU “is worthy of retaining that new status,” the statement says.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said IRB is “delighted to welcome” American Samoa as the latest full member.

“The ASRU is a structured organization that has demonstrated strong governance principles and a robust administration. It has demonstrated a determination to grow the Game within the country,” said Lapasset in the IRB statement. “The IRB is committed to developing Rugby around the world and this is yet another step along that path.”