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Samoa captain Lam has no regrets about putting Samoa first

October 11, 2019 GMT
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Japan's Michael Leitch runs at Samoa's Jack Lam during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game at City of Toyota Stadium between Japan and Samoa in Tokyo City, Japan, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
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Japan's Michael Leitch runs at Samoa's Jack Lam during the Rugby World Cup Pool A game at City of Toyota Stadium between Japan and Samoa in Tokyo City, Japan, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

FUKUOKA, Japan (AP) — Samoa captain Jack Lam has no regrets about putting his country before financial gain.

The backrower rejected offers to play club rugby in France so he could be with his Samoa teammates in Japan and participate in his first Rugby World Cup. Lam earns his 36th test cap when Samoa plays its last Pool A game against Ireland on Saturday.

“There was a couple of contracts in France that I could’ve taken, but they had the condition that I had to turn down playing for Samoa in the World Cup, and in the future as well,” Lam said Friday. “I just couldn’t do that to myself and the jersey, and it just didn’t cross my mind. It was a bit of a risk, especially for my family, but my wife and my family were all behind my decision.”

Lam, who was released by English Premiership club Bristol at the end of last season, did not say which French teams had offered him a contract to play, but added: “hopefully in the future it will change and we won’t have these kind of problems.”

Samoa had other players unavailable, though, because of club interests — much to the frustration of the coaching staff.

“It’s been massive for us. It’s been a challenge selecting this squad,” Samoa’s assistant coach Al Rogers said. “But the great thing about it was that we knew we had a group that really wanted to be here, who sacrificed a lot to be here. We could build a good foundation off that.”

Lam appreciates the special bond around the Samoa team too much to forsake it in the interests of personal ambition. Samoa’s players sang together in the dressing room on Friday after the traditional captain’s run on the eve of the game.

“We’ve been together for a good eight weeks and it’s pretty much been my family for the last two months, a great family,” Lam said. “We’ve had our ups and downs as any family would, but we’ve managed to solve everything within our family and we’re still tight.”

Among that family is his brother, Seilala Lam, who starts Saturday’s game at hooker.

Jack Lam was born in New Zealand, raised in Australia and is part of proud Samoan rugby family. His cousin, Pat Lam, is a former Samoa captain and was his coach at Bristol.

Samoa’s players are also on friendly terms with Ireland center Bundee Aki, who grew up in New Zealand and is of Samoan descent.

“Most of the boys are pretty close with Bundee, a couple of boys have seen him during the week. We are still friends off the field but when we cross the line we are (rivals),” the Samoa skipper said. “We have no special presents for him. He’ll get the same treatment as everyone else.”

Samoa is in fourth place in Pool A after a 34-9 win over Russia and losses to Scotland and Japan.

Rogers is uncertain what the future holds for Samoa’s coaching set up after the tournament ends.

“There will be some discussions over the next couple of weeks. We will just see which way the Samoa Rugby Union would want to go and have a discussion around what the succession plans look like and what the next four years look like,” Rogers said. “So, yes, I’m pretty much in the same boat as Jack. Other than that, I might just be back with my wife, looking after the kids.”

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