Rugby-Samoan teams stuck in Dubai in COVID-19 snarl-up

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Samoa's national rugby sevens teams are stranded in Dubai after failing to meet their own government's COVID-19 requirements en route home from missing out on qualification for the Tokyo Games, sports officials said on Thursday.

Players and staff from the men's and women's teams were denied passage on a flight from Dubai to New Zealand due to problems with blood tests, the officials and The Samoa Observer newspaper said.

"They're stuck in Dubai at the moment," Samoa's Olympic President Patrick Fepuleai told Reuters by telephone.

The Samoan men's and women's qualifying hopes both ended with a semi-final defeat in the repachage tournament in Monaco on June 20 before they started their journey home via Dubai.

Daniel Leo, a former Samoan rugby player and director of the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare group, said he had been in contact with the sevens cohort in a hotel in Dubai.

Their next possible flight was on July 27, he added.

"If they had qualified (for Tokyo), they probably would have been welcomed back with open arms," he added.

There was no comment from the Samoan government or the Samoan rugby federation.

Governing body World Rugby said it was helping the players explore options to return and also providing support on the ground.

"The welfare of the players is our priority and we have offered our assistance," it said.

Samoa on Thursday pulled its home-based weightlifting team out of the Tokyo Olympics, citing COVID-19 curbs, but said other Samoan athletes based overseas would represent the Pacific nation at the Games.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Andrew Cawthorne)

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