Former AB says Fiji players paid to miss RWC

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012

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Former All Black Simon Mannix has found himself in a growing controversy after claiming Fijian players were paid by a French club to miss last year's World Cup.

Mannix, who was the former Racing Métro backs coach, said some Fijian players at the Paris club were kept there to play in the Top 14 rather than be involved in the global tournament that was held in New Zealand.

"Racing Métro had Fijians who declined to go to the World Cup ... because the club gave them a cheque if they stayed here [in Paris]," Mannix told The Independent newspaper.

Mannix, who coached at the club from 2006 till last November and is now with Irish club Munster, alleged Sireli Bobo, Jone Qovu and Josh Matavesi were involved.

Racing Métro President Jacky Lorenzetti hit back, denying his club made any illegal payments or broke any regulations.

"(The accusations) make me laugh, especially coming from Simon Mannix. Nothing else to add," Lorenzetti told French website Rugbyrama.

But the suggestions about island players being discouraged to play in World Cups aren't new and the plight of the cash-strapped island teams was a hot topic at the tournament.

The Independent also approached former Fiji first-five Nicky Little about these allegations. He has played for clubs across Europe and contested four World Cups and confirmed shady dealings.

"For many seasons, European and UK-based Islanders have either been blackmailed not to play for their countries, or had pay docked when they were with their national teams," Little, who represented Fiji in four World Cups, told The Independent.

Matavesi felt he had been put in an awkward position.

 "I had a verbal agreement with the club, who offered me a two-year contract. I knew that if I signed, I couldn't go to the World Cup. I didn't have any other offers. It was a difficult decision, but in the end I thought about the security of me and my family," he told the paper.

Bobo described an additional $40,000 payment made to him as "a bonus".

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- Fairfax Media

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