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Held back

Rashneel Kumar
Wednesday, November 07, 2012

INTERNATIONAL Rugby Union (IRB) is awaiting a formal complaint from the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) to start its investigation on the allegations that three of the Fijian players were 'bribed' to make themselves unavailable for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

According to reports in British newspaper the Independent, former All Blacks and Racing Metro coach Simon Mannix claims Sireli Bobo, Jone Qovu and Josh Matavesi were paid to decline from playing for Fiji in the 2011 Pacific Nations Cup, effectively ruling them out of world cup selection.

Mannix claimed Racing Metro wanted the trio to focus in the Top 14 competition.

Bobo and Qovu, who are still playing for the France-based club, cited "personal commitment" while Matavesi, now playing for Worcester Warriors, wanted to focus on club commitments.

Qovu was also included in the Flying Fijians team for the northern hemisphere tour this month but pulled out because of injury.

"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.

"The Racing Metro president, Jacky Lorenzetti, denied the club have made any illegal payments or broken any regulations," the Independent reported.

A statement from IRB read: "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 enquiry."

FRU says it will not make any comments on the matter, adding they may make a statement later in the week.

FRU chief executive officer Manasa Baravilala, who is on tour with the Flying Fijians, told the Independent, " ... the fact so many players from one club were suddenly unavailable certainly aroused suspicions".

"There is widespread reluctance in Pacific Island rugby to jeopardise European careers," the Independent added.

Matavesi said he had a verbal agreement with the club, who offered him 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 told the Independent.

Speedster Bobo, who has been with Racing since 2007, admits getting an additional payment of £16,000 ($F45,000) that he deemed "a bonus".

Lorenzetti also says it was a bonus and denies any illegal payments were made or any regulations broken.

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