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Moana Pasifika coach calls for more respect, questions 'less than ideal' Force timing in latest Covid blow

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22nd April, 2022
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Moana Pasifika coach Aaron Mauger, frustrated by the Super Rugby team’s fourth Covid-related postponement of their first season, has called for his team to be accorded more respect and questioned the Western Force’s timing around the decision to declare their inability to play.

The competition newcomers were due to play the Force on Friday night in the second match of the Super Round.

Mauger told stuff.co.nz that the team only found out officially that the game would be postponed when they arrived in Melbourne after travelling from Auckland on Wednesday.

Force have not revealed exactly how many players were affected – putting the figure at around two dozen players and staff – but the Super Rugby Pacific Medical Advisory Group accepted they needed to postpone the game.

“We’re disappointed we found out so late,” Mauger told Stuff. “It’s less than ideal from the Force. Nobody got in touch to let us know a couple of days ago they had cases. That’s what we’ve done the whole way through … it wouldn’t have taken much to pick up the phone, and say, ‘we could be in trouble this weekend, just letting you know’.”

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The former All Black also questioned how many cases were needed for a postponement threshold.

“I don’t know their exact numbers {with the Force], but I do know we fielded a team with 22 Covid cases, which included (halfback) Dwayne Polataivao coming in and meeting Ere Enari on the morning of the first game against the Blues to go through the playbook, then Joe Royal turned up for our walk-through two hours before the game.

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“Those guys both made their debut that night. That’s what we were prepared to do, what we had to do, to make the game go ahead.

“It’s about making sure we’re treated with respect through the process,” added Mauger. “That’s probably the key thing, especially after all the sacrifices and commitment we’ve made to ensure our games have gone ahead.

“But we’ll get on with it. It’s all you can do. We’ll use it as an opportunity to freshen up, and have a full week leading into the Rebels in Melbourne.”

Force CEO Tony Lewis said the club had “made every effort possible to assist in making this game go ahead.

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“Despite looking at multiple replacement options, the number of players affected is simply too great.”

Mauger told Stuff his players had managed to stay close knit through a difficult season, during which they had to play six times in 23 days.

“There have been so many through this campaign,” he said. “I’m just extremely proud of how the boys are fronting up. We’re trying to help our guys become good professionals in the most challenging conditions you could ask for. We’ve got stronger men, a lot more mature men than the guys who walked through the door three months ago, and the wraparound support from our staff has been outstanding.”

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