Fiji want soldier cleared to play at RWC - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Fiji want soldier cleared to play at RWC

18/08/2011 07:37:27 PM Comments (0)

Coach Sam Domoni says Fiji will press New Zealand through diplomatic channels to allow soldier Leone Nakarawa to be included in their squad for next month's Rugby World Cup.

The lock returned to the Fiji team this year for the first time since 2009 and is in line to be named in their 30-man World Cup squad on Monday after injuries to frontliners Ifereimi Rawaqa and Sekonaia Kalou.

But Nakarawa's ties to the Fiji military currently make him ineligible for a New Zealand visa.

New Zealand has applied travel sanctions against Fiji, banning members of the its military and their families, since strongman Frank Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup.

Individuals affected by the travel ban are entitled to apply to the New Zealand government for an exception and Domoni told Radio New Zealand on Thursday that the Fiji Rugby Union would do so on Nakarawa's behalf.

"We're just waiting on paperwork and the rationale behind the stance that has been made," he said.

"We can only tick the right boxes and answer what is required for the immigration department. But we are keeping our fingers crossed and hopefully things will pan out for the better."

However, New Zealand is unlikely to ease travel sanctions for Nakarawa, who is a serving member of the Fiji armed forces.

In 2009 it banned the Fiji football team's goalkeeper from playing in a World Cup qualifying match in New Zealand because of his family ties to the Fiji military.

FIFA moved the match from New Zealand to Fiji because of that ruling which it said breached its stance against political interference in sport.

The International Rugby Board has applied pressure on New Zealand, on Fiji's behalf, to have travel sanctions lifted for the World Cup not only for players but members of the Fiji Rugby Union and government officials.

The board of the Fiji Rugby Union was ousted earlier this year and replaced by a new board including several senior army officers. New Zealand has repeatedly stated it will not ease travel sanctions to allow those officials to attend the World Cup.

Foreign minister Murray McCully has previously indicated there was no basis for an exemption in Nakarawa's case.

"We've been very clear that those to whom the individual sanctions apply will not be given exemptions on this occasion," he said.

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