Fiji to attend Rugby World cup despite ban

Fiji will send a team to this year’s Rugby World Cup even if New Zealand bans players linked to the Pacific nation’s military regime from attending, world rugby supremo Mike Miller said Friday.

New Zealand, which will host the tournament later this year, has a long-standing policy barring anyone with ties to Suva’s military from entering the country, casting doubt the participation of several Fijian players.

But International Rugby Board (IRB) chief executive Miller said Fiji would send a team to New Zealand regardless, adding “let’s not create a drama which doesn’t exist”.

“We’ll see what happens on a case-by-case basis but Fiji will be here,” Miller told reporters in Wellington.

“We have to wait and see what happens, who they select and then the processes will take their course, but the Fijian team will be here.”

New Zealand imposed travel bans on members of Fiji’s military regime, which seized power in a 2006 coup, after Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama reneged on a promise to hold elections in 2009.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully last month raised the prospect of relaxing the sanctions ahead of the World Cup if Fiji provided firm evidence it intended to honour a promise to hold elections in 2014.

Miller said there had been no discussions with New Zealand on the sanctions’ potential impact on Fiji’s World Cup squad as the team had not yet been named.

He said there was intense interest in the tournament in rugby-mad Fiji and it would send a team to New Zealand capable of upsetting the game’s powerhouse nations.

“The Rugby World Cup is one of the most important things for them, they know that it’s a chance for Fiji to shine,” he said.

Asked if Bainimarama should be allowed into New Zealand to cheer on his team, Miller replied: “I think that anyone who wants to come along to the Rugby World Cup should come along.

“(But) it’s really not up to me to decide who can come and support their team.”

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