Samoa star Dan Leo says players are coming under increased financial pressure from clubs to retire from the international game
The European Cup winning Samoa lock, Dan Leo, has spoken out about the manner in which players, particularly from poorer rugby nations such as the Pacific Island sides, are increasingly being faced with a choice between representing their country at Test-level or retiring from the international game as a means of enjoying a more lucrative salary at their club.
Leo, who has played in Europe for 10 years with Wasps, Bordeaux Bègles, Perpignan and now London Irish, publicized the situation four months out from the Rugby World Cup at a time when many players will be faced with contract renewal talks at their clubs at the end of the season.
“I have had the pressure of choosing between whether or not to play for my country right through my career,” the 32-year-old told Planet Rugby; “It’s probably even worse now because of the pressure on clubs to succeed.
“I can say confidently that every Pacific Island player when they’re talking with clubs will be pressurised to declare themselves unavailable for internationals. Two contracts, two salaries, one for if they retire/refrain from Tests and one if they don’t which can vary from up to 30 or 40 percent.”
Indeed, Leo stressed the extent to which Pacific Island players’ low-rate of remuneration at international-level makes them more dependent on an increasingly lucrative club game for their income and thus more vulnerable to pressure from private employers when it comes to negotiating contracts.
As an example, Leo cited the experience of prop, Census Johnson, who has retired from Samoa ahead of the World Cup owing to the fact Toulouse’s offer of a new two-year contract was contingent upon the 33-year-old retiring from the international game.
The Exiles’ lock also emphasized the manner in which the coming of the World Cup has made the clubs even more determined to recruit international-class non-internationals owing to the fact that it will overlap with the start of the club season.
“Which clubs are going to want to pay for a player who won’t be around for four months?
“Next year is massively important in the Premiership with the possibility of ring-fencing, so clubs are investing wisely to have as many top players as possible around as everyone wants a good start. So who are the easiest guys to pressure into retirement so they can always play for their clubs? Those who aren’t being financially remunerated sufficiently by their countries at the World Cup, which are the Pacific Island boys.
“The Island players don’t want to be making money from going to a World Cup, but they definitely don’t want to be losing money. At the tournament we get paid £400 a week, which wouldn’t even cover my rent.”
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