Fiji may launch complaint over Mannix claims

Last updated 13:35 08/11/2012
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POSSIBLE COMPLAINT: Fiji may go to the IRB over claims Racing Metro players, like Sireli Bobo (pictured), were paid not to play for Fiji at last year's World Cup.

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The Fiji Rugby Union will decide later this week whether it will ask the International Rugby Board to act on claims that French club Racing Metro paid three Fiji players to make themselves unavailable for last year's World Cup.

Britain's Independent newspaper on Wednesday (local time) quoted former All Black Simon Mannix, who was backline coach at Racing Metro for five years, as saying the club paid players bonuses to withdraw from the Fiji World Cup squad.

Sireli Bobo and Jone Qovu both pulled out of the Fiji squad citing personal reasons, while Josh Matavesi withdrew citing club commitments.

The FRU confirmed on Thursday (local time) it has officially complained to Racing Metro over Qovu's unavailability for its current European tour. Qovu refused selection claiming to be injured, but later played a club match.

The IRB said in a statement it could not investigate allegations against the French club until it received a formal complaint.

"The IRB can only act on player release issues if requested to do so by a union or if it is provided with credible evidence that would allow it to pursue its own inquiry," it said.

FRU spokeswoman Talei Mow said the union would make a statement later this week indicating whether it would alert the IRB to the issue. Chief executive Manasa Barivilala is currently in Britain with the Fiji team.

In a further statement, the IRB reminded members of their obligation to release players for international matches.

"Player release is central to the integrity and economic sustainability of the international game and the IRB continues to be proactively committed to assisting unions with player release issues when requested by them to do so under Regulation 9," the statement said. "The regulation is designed to deliver a fair, equitable and proportionate framework for facilitating the release of the world's best players for international duty within designated windows without impediment irrespective of country of employment. This regulation goes to the very core of supporting the integrity of the international game.

The IRB said it is currently monitoring player release issues during the November 2012 window "and the matter will be the subject of discussion at the IRB November 2012 meetings in Dublin."

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Nicky Little, who played flyhalf for Fiji for 10 years and has played professionally in five European countries, told The Independent that players routinely faced financial penalties or incentives to turn down international play.

"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 said.

The chairman of the International Rugby Players' Association said a continuation of the practice could devalue the 2015 World Cup in Britain.

"The IRB are aware of this practice," he said. "It is imperative that the World Cup is defined by the best playing against the best."

- AP

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