Rugby World Cup
IRB to respect Fiji travel ban
March 22, 2011
Fiji's World Cup preparations have hit another roadblock © Getty Images
The IRB will respect the right of countries such as New Zealand and Australia to enforce their travel sanctions on Fiji, a decision that may have a knock-on effect for the Rugby World Cup and Sevens World Series.
The Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has provided the IRB with a list of players, from their World Cup plans and Sevens squads, who have been adversely affected by travel bans relating to those with links to the military coup which supplanted the democratically-elected government in Suva.
A Fijian news website reported that the IRB's general manager for Oceania, William Glenwright, had said that there was an "ongoing dialogue" with both New Zealand and Australia on the matter, as part of broader discussions on the hosting of tournaments.
Crucially, however, he said that governments reserved the right to deny entry to any individual in accordance with their respective immigration policies.
Fiji Navy players Nikola Matawalu and Waqabaca Kotobalavu have been named in the Sevens squad for the Hong Kong tournament this weekend, but will not be permitted to enter Australia for the Adelaide leg of the series. Fiji coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama has said that if Fiji cannot send the best team to the Australia Sevens, due to the travel sanctions, then it should not send any team to Adelaide.
He also told Radio Fiji that the current board and management of the FRU did not deserve to be given F$3million in state funding for its World Cup campaign because they had not displayed a will to fight for the nation's best players to represent the country.
FRU acting chairman Rafaele Kasibulu told the Fiji Times that while the union wanted players to go to all IRB tournaments, the granting of visas was the prerogative of the host nations.
"It is a very unfortunate issue because some of these players are non-commissioned officers and joining the military is a source of employment for most of our young people," he said. "We could have taken a very drastic stand by pulling out and not participating in the series but we could have faced a tougher action from IRB."
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