Samoa’s Joe Tekori in shock retirement just months before World Cup

SAMOA’S JOE TEKORI has announced his shock retirement from international rugby just two months before the World Cup in Japan, citing his intention to focus on playing club rugby for Toulouse.

The 35-year-old lock/back row would almost certainly have been named in Samoa’s final World Cup squad if available, having helped the Pacific Islanders to qualify by beating Germany in a two-legged play-off last year.

Tekori plays club rugby for Toulouse. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But Tekori didn’t feature for Samoa in last year’s November Tests – instead playing for Toulouse in the Top 14 – and has now confirmed that he will not play at his fourth World Cup, having decided to retire from Test rugby.

Samoa, who face Joe Schmidt’s Ireland in Pool A of the World Cup in Japan, will miss Tekori’s power and experience. He recently helped Toulouse to Top 14 success, starting the final victory over Clermont.

“It was not an easy decision to make but I am blessed and grateful to have been able to put on the blue jersey and play to represent my beautiful country Samoa,” wrote Tekori on his Instagram page.

The imposing 130kg forward added that he will “focus my rugby career on the club I am playing for now.” 

Tekori’s decision has once again raised a contentious issue in the global game – namely Pacific Islanders opting against playing for their national teams in order to prioritise their club careers.

Fijian wings Nemani Nadolo and Timoci Nagusa both announced their retirements from Test rugby earlier this year in news that was met with disappointment by Fiji head coach John McKee.

“In many ways, retirements such as these show us the pressure our Flying Fijians can be under juggling their professional rugby career, possible injuries, living in Europe, family life and making themselves available to represent their country,” said McKee.

Tekori would have been playing at his fourth World Cup in Japan. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Current Samoa squad member Belgium Tuatagaloa last month claimed that French Pro D2 club Valence Romans had withdrawn a contract offer when he was called up for the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup, potentially earning him a World Cup spot.

“My agent told me they weren’t going to contract me because I might make the World Cup team,” Tuatagaloa told Stuff.

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“When I hit him up about that, he said the president says he doesn’t want to pay for players who attend the World Cup instead of playing with us.”

The issue of Pacific Island internationals being dissuaded from playing Test rugby for their nations is common in the build-up to World Cups, as well as at other stages in the international calendar, with many arguing that the sport’s governing body, World Rugby, needs to do more to protect the international game.

World Rugby’s Regulation 9, which concerns the availability of players for Test rugby, states, “No Union, Association, Rugby Body or Club whether by contract, conduct or otherwise may inhibit, prevent, discourage, disincentivise or render unavailable any Player from selection, attendance, and appearance in a National Representative Team or National Squad session”.

Tekori gave no indication of being discouraged from featuring for Samoa in his retirement statement on Instagram, but losing him for the World Cup is a blow to the Samoans.

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