Samoa strike threat changed things for the better, says Census Johnston

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Census Johnston believes Samoa would never have participated in the World Cup without threatening to strike in November.

Experienced prop Johnston scotched rumours he was forced to retire from Test rugby by Toulouse, revealing he had a deal for World Cup release with the French club all along.

Samoa only relented on industrial action at the 11th hour in November, eventually facing England at Twickenham despite disputes over pay and back-room infrastructure.

Johnston confirmed World Rugby brokered new agreements that have revolutionised Samoa’s set-up and secured their World Cup participation.

“We do feel vindicated for threatening to strike in November, even though that was an extremely tough position to be in,” said Johnston, ahead of Saturday’s World Cup clash with South Africa.

“For guys who play for tier one nations, they’re just used to having very solid, very secure systems.

“And we’ve had years of not being used to what’s going on, and that’s just a relief and a weight off the boys’ shoulders.

“And we can focus on the rugby now, not figuring out whether we’re going to get paid.

“We’ve ended up getting a bit of a pay rise, it’s nothing compared to what the tier one nations get, but it’s a step forward.

“Everything’s changed. We’ve got a new CEO, we’ve got a new high performance manager, and I’ve arrived in the last few weeks and just seen huge changes.

“The organisation of everything has been set, we know what’s going on, so we can purely focus on our job on the field.

“Before we were always worried about things not happening for us, and boys were paying for things like physios out of their own pocket.

“World Rugby and the International Players Union (IRUPA) helped us have talks with the union in the months after November.

“In the last month we were able to sign a deal that will hopefully give Samoa a better future.

“It’s crucial for the next generation of players, if we want them to choose Samoa over potentially another nation.”