MARCOUSSIS, France - The head of world rugby on Thursday vowed a "strict application" of the rules on releasing players for international duty, amid claims that three Fijians were barred by their clubs from the 2011 World Cup.
The chairman of the International Rugby Board (IRB), Bernard Lapasset, said the main northern hemisphere federations were due to meet this month and they would get to the bottom of the issue.
"We'll see if we have to change the rule. If we have to start investigations, we'll do so. It'll be with complete transparency and in the strict application of the rules," he said at the national centre for French rugby in Marcoussis, near Paris.
Rugby's financially poorer countries, particularly the Pacific Islands, have long alleged that they face economic "blackmail" by wealthy clubs in the sport's more established nations.
Under IRB rules, clubs must release players at times designated for full internationals, such as the upcoming November international "window", and for major tournaments including the World Cup.
But clubs have tried to get round this by agreeing to clauses in contracts with players from cash-strapped Pacific Island nations, who then make themselves unavailable for Test duty, as happened at last year's World Cup in New Zealand.
The former backs coach of French Top 14 side Racing-Metro, New Zealander Simon Mannix, on Wednesday claimed in British newspaper The Independent that his former club had paid three Fijians not to take part in the 2011 World Cup.