New Zealand leaves Fijian nationality issue to IRB
November 14, 2000

Sevens rugby world grand prix champions New Zealand have decided to leave the eligibility issue over Australian-based
Fijian Senirusi Rauqe to the International Rugby Board (IRB).

Rauqe, subject to an IRB clearance, is travelling with a severely depleted
Fijian squad -- arch rivals of Gordon Tietjens squad -- who are missing six
high profiles names including mercurial match-winner Waisale Serevi.

Others missing are Canterbury winger Marika Vunibaka, Filimone Delasau,
Viliame Satala, Fero Lasagavibau and Seru Rabeni.
That has forced the Fijians to call up Rauqe who played for Fiji in 1997
and then Australia in 1998 before playing for Fiji at the Commonwealth Games the same year.

"I'm a Fijian and I was born here and it would be unrealistic if IRB stops
me from representing my country," Rauqe said before the team's departure.
"The sevens officials and myself are confident I will be allowed to play.
That's why I'm travelling with the team to Durban and Dubai."

Fiji Rugby Football Union chief executive Bob Challenor said he has
provided the IRB with relevant information, but added that as much as everyone would like Rauqe to play, FRFU still needed to abide by the law and the regulation that came into effect in January this year.

At least 36 months should have passed after a player has played for the
first union, before he can he play for the second.

"He played for Fiji first before he played for Australia and my opinion is
that he will be ruled eligible to play for Fiji," Challenor said."It's a very complex situation because we are dealing with two changes -- a law that keeps on changing and a man who is changing countries."

Last year South Africa were stripped of points from the Brisbane sevens for
fielding players who were not eligible to play for them.
"We didn't know he was subject to eligibility concerns," New Zealand
manager Tony Ward said ahead of his team's departure.

"But that is interesting. We're aware that the fine for fielding an
ineligible player is 100,000 pounds sterling, and they'll want to be very
careful to avoid that."

Ward said New Zealand had no intention of becoming embroiled in any off-field issue with the Fijians."It is for them and the IRB to sort out, we've got to concentrate on winning on the field, that is where it matters."

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