Fiji player quits army to sidestep Cup ban - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Fiji player quits army to sidestep Cup ban

19/08/2011 04:39:12 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand has lifted a ban preventing a Fijian player from attending this year's Rugby World Cup after he resigned from the Pacific nation's military, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said on Friday.

New Zealand has barred Fijian soldiers from entering the country since the military seized control of the government in a 2006 coup, meaning lock Leone Nakarawa was not eligible to play in the tournament.

With Fiji poised to name the 23-year-old in its 30-man World Cup squad on Saturday, the issue posed a potential headache for organisers of the rugby showcase.

However Nakarawa's resignation broke the impasse and McCully said the player had been given a temporary exemption from the ban so he could play in New Zealand.

"The New Zealand government has been advised Fijian rugby player Leone Nakarawa has resigned from the Republic of Fiji military forces and has been discharged," he said.

"The New Zealand government will grant Nakarawa a temporary exemption from the travel sanction, this allows him to play for Fiji in the Rugby World Cup."

McCully added: "While we would normally take a little longer to provide an exemption or lift the sanction in respect of a person resigning from the military, in this case we agreed to act more quickly."

A source close to the government told AFP that it was confident Nakarawa genuinely intended to pursue a rugby career after attracting interest from European clubs, rather than simply re-enlisting after the tournament.

The 117kg lock is the only Fiji player affected by the ban, although many top officials at the Fiji Rugby Union will not be allowed to attend the tournament because of their military ties.

Fiji avoided a confrontation with New Zealand authorities last month by omitting the player from the team that travelled to Dunedin for a Test against the All Blacks.

Fiji coach Samu Domoni said this week that he needed to take Nakarawa to the World Cup because his squad had been weakened by injuries.

AFP

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