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Fiji players in World Cup 'blackmail' scandal

Wednesday 7 Nov 2012 12:11 p.m.

Three Fiji players (not pictured) were allegedly paid not to be available for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand (Photosport file)

Three Fiji players (not pictured) were allegedly paid not to be available for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand (Photosport file)

Former All Black Simon Mannix has alleged three Fijian players at the French club he coached last year were paid to be unavailable for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

International Rugby Board (IRB) regulations require clubs to release players for major Tests and tournaments and forbid clubs from offering players incentives to turn down national selection.

However, former Racing Metro backs coach Simon Mannix says the club used its deep pockets to encourage Sireli Bobo, Jone Qovu and Josh Matavesi to be unavailable for the 2011 Pacific Nations Cup, effectively ruling themselves out of World Cup selection.

Bobo and Qovu reportedly cited "personal reasons" for their non-availability while Matavesi said he wanted to focus on club commitments.

"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]," former Wellington first five-eighth Mannix told The Independent.

Mannix coached at the club from 2006 until last November, when he was fired.

Racing Metro president Jacky Lorenzetti denied the club had 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 site Rugbyrama.

The IRB said in a statement it can only act on an alleged breach of regulations if requested to do so by a national union or if is provided with "credible evidence".

Former New Zealand-based No.10 Nicky Little, who played at four World Cups for Fiji, said the practice wasn't new.

"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," said Little, who played at three New Zealand provinces and for seven clubs in Europe.

The 2015 World Cup in England will again overlap with the European domestic competitions.

NZN

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