Mannix says Fiji players paid not to play at RWC
Former All Black Simon Mannix is embroiled in a controversy after claiming Fiji players were paid by a French club to miss last year's Rugby World Cup.
Mannix, the former Racing Metro backs coach, said some Fiji players at the Paris club were kept there to play in the Top 14 rather than be involved in the global tournament in New Zealand.
"Racing Metro 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 at Irish club Munster, alleged Sireli Bobo, Jone Qovu and Josh Matavesi were involved.
Racing Metro president Jacky Lorenzetti denied 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 Pacific Island players being discouraged from playing in World Cups aren't new and the plight of the cash-strapped Pacific teams was a hot topic at the tournament.
The Independent also approached former Fiji first-five Nicky Little about the allegations. He has played for clubs across Europe and contested four World Cups and he 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 said. Bobo described an additional $40,000 payment made to him as "a bonus".