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NZ Herald investigation uncovers anti-Samoa effort

 Danny Kayes had his ban overturned. [photo: John Borren / NZ Herald]

A former Manu Samoa Sevens player, national Coach Sir Gordon Tietjens and four other Samoan players have been caught in the middle of a brewing controversy involving New Zealand Rugby.

According to an investigation carried out by The NZ Herald, Danny Kayes was among players the New Zealand Rugby Union was threatening to ban from next week's New Zealand national sevens tournament in Rotorua over his connections to Samoa.

The of Bay of Plenty born Kayes, who is a Civil Engineer by profession, objected and threatened to take legal action.

"I am about as BOP as they get — the fact that I have been denied to represent my province is a kick in the guts and it doesn't seem right," Kayes reportedly told New Zealand Rugby.

Kayes, whose mother is Samoan, played four tournaments for Samoa early last year but is not among their newly contracted 22 sevens players.

The 23-year-old pointed out to NZ Rugby he was born in Tauranga and had lived in Papamoa most of his life.

This is what Christ Rattue of The NZ Herald reported: 

“New Zealand Rugby has been forced into a major backdown after an investigation by the Herald found they were trying to ban players with Pacific Island links from next week's national sevens tournament in Rotorua.

The dispute also involves an apparent admission by a NZR official that it is uncertain of the legality of trying to coerce players out of Pacific Island teams in return for allowing them to play for their provinces.

And one email shown to the Herald as it investigated the situation this week reveals the apparent fear the under-pressure New Zealand sevens programme is feeling in the re-shaped international scene.

The players, all New Zealanders according to the players' union, wanted the bans overturned with one considering legal action if he remained sidelined.

Last night most got their way after hurried NZR meetings, with the Rugby Players' Association (RPA) revealing 14 out of 16 applications by men and women who play for Pacific Island teams were now approved for Rotorua. It is believed more than half were initially turned down, with around five of those involving Samoan men.

There were conspiracy claims in some quarters that the bans were a reprisal against Samoan coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, who criticised NZ Rugby after his side failed at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The RPA took another view: that the high performance tail had been allowed to wag the NZR executive's dog.

Read more at NZ Herald