Kiwis hold Wallabies hopeful Samu to ransom
PETE Samu looks set to be denied a chance to make his Wallabies debut in June after Rugby Australia rejected a cash-grab demand of over $50,000 by New Zealand Rugby to release the Crusaders flanker.
After a day of heated negotiations with their NZR counterparts, RA officials were standing firm on the fact they will not pay the massive sum to secure Samu's release.
RA has not walked away from the table entirely but there appears to be little chance of Samu playing in June unless NZR back down on the demand for money.
It is understood World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has even been drawn into the trans-Tasman dispute.
NZR all-but conceded it was seeking financial compensation after announcing on they had "put a proposal to Rugby Australia early today, that would allow Pete Samu to be available for selection in June and for the Rugby Championship".
"Rugby Australia is currently contemplating this proposal," NZR Head of Professional Rugby Chris Lendrum said.
RA sought a release from NZR for Samu under World Rugby regulation nine and argued, as per normal practice, it should be a simple matter of the Kiwis releasing the 26-year-old to play for his country for free.
After signing with the Brumbies this week, Samu has subsequently spoken to Michael Cheika and expressed his desire to play for the Wallabies in June.
RA officials are arguing NZR is not abiding by the "spirit" of Reg Nine, as it is stressed in the preamble of the World Rugby document.
NZR believe it has the right to deny Samu's release because he holds dual eligibility, despite the player not wanting to play for New Zealand or the All Blacks not being interested in picking him either.
The sticking point is the fact Samu has a contract with Tasman from August to October.
But it is understood RA offered to only select Samu for June and let him return to Tasman in August.
That compromise was not accepted by NZR, which insisted on only releasing Samu if RA agreed to their "proposal" for June and the Rugby Championship inclusive.
The tactics of NZR have got little support in New Zealand, where the public and leading media figures have supported Samu's release.
Even Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and CEO Hamish Riach went against head office and threw strong support behind their flanker playing for the Wallabies.
"He's Australian, he's committed to the Brumbies next year, the Wallabies want him and he's clearly going to play international rugby for the Wallabies at some point," Riach told Radio Sport in New Zealand.
"So we're quite happy for that to be sooner rather than later."
Robertson said: "He's going to be a Wallaby at some stage isn't he? If that's in June, good on him. He's an Australian who wants to play for Australia. He's good enough to be a Wallaby."
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