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FORU president Lefau Schuster celebrates and welcomes Am Samoa into IRB

President of the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU), Lefau Harry Schuster is  “ecstatic” that the American Samoa Rugby Union (ASRU) is now a full member of the International Rugby Board (IRB) and hopes that the local rugby union will come out very strong, similar to the Samoa Rugby Union, and be very competitive.

ASRU was last week granted full membership by the IRB Council, and chairman of the ASRU, Gov. Togiola Tulafono is pleased because full membership now gives local players a chance to vie for the World Cup. The governor said that Lefau had promised to work very hard in pushing ASRU’s full membership on the IRB — the governing body of world rugby. Lefau represented FORU in the IRB Council.

Asked for his reaction to the IRB decision on ASRU, Lefau said, “I am ecstatic that American Samoa has been admitted and it was one of two things I sought when I went to my first IRB Council meeting.”

“The other thing I sought, but has not been successful, was in changing Regulation 8 so that Islanders who play for New Zealand or Australia or whoever can come back and play for their Island of origin,” Lefau said via e-mail this week. He also said “I am also so happy as American Samoa has been admitted in time,” since the IRB has since changed the admission rules so that only independent territories can be admitted to the IRB.

As a full member, “ASRU can now participate in all IRB qualifying competitions and receive funding from the IRB,” said Lefau. “The funding will not cover everything but it would help. ASRU will be playing in qualifiers for the 15s and 7s RWC, and Olympic qualifiers for 7s for men and women and also age grade competitions.”

Asked about his hopes for ASRU now that it’s a full member, Lefau said that “ASRU will become a strong Union just like the Samoa Rugby Union and offer competitive competitions to enable our young men and women to become great rugby athletes.”

“Rugby is not just a sport now, it is an opportunity that an athlete could utilise to better themselves economically and support their families and communities,” he said.

Asked as to some of the criteria that ASRU needs to maintain in order to keep its full member status, Lefau explained, “To be an effective governing organization, and ASRU has certainly been that since being reorganized. Provide appropriate competition structures for its members domestically. ASRU can also when it is able to, organize international Tournaments for both local and overseas players.”

Togiola said last week that American Samoa’s membership will come up for review again in 24 months.

Asked what’s involved in the review, Lefau said the “IRB will conduct an audit of both competitions and governance. I conducted that on behalf of the IRB in the last 2 years and the ASRU came through very well.”

He mentioned that there had been an unpleasant incident but that it was not the fault of ASRU. Lefau didn’t elaborate on the incident, but last July, a Samoa based referee was assaulted by Nu’uuli rugby players during a rugby match at the Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“Discipline is an area both the ASRU and its members have to keep a tight control on,” he said. “Although the ASRU has now only been admitted as an IRB member it is an old Union just like the Samoa Rugby Union and we do know our Rugby and our troubles. They are not new and we know what we need to do to go forward.”

“As a Samoan and FORU representative I will do whatever I can to help my aiga across the sea get competitive in 15s and 7s Rugby for both men and Women,” he said.

In closing, Lefau said the chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, himself and all of the  Samoa Rugby Union “join to celebrate and welcome our American Samoan Aiga to the IRB and we certainly will play our part to help ASRU out.”