Fiji edge closer to 2011 Rugby World Cup ban

Fiji have included an army officer in their Rugby World Cup squad, however the New Zealand government on Friday remained adamant he would not be allowed into the country.

Leone Nakarawa, a 23-year-old soldier, has been selected in a 35-member squad that will provide the basis of the Fiji team to play the All Blacks next week and contest the World Cup starting in New Zealand in September.

However, New Zealand has banned Fijians with military or government ties from the country as part of sanctions imposed following the 2006 coup when military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama seized control of the Pacific nation.

Fiji team manager Talemo Waqa said they were aware of the travel sanctions but were working with the New Zealand Rugby Union and the International Rugby Board to have Nakarawa play in New Zealand.

“At the moment, we don’t really want to think of any contingency plan whilst that is in the mindset,” Waqa told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

“We believe, we have the best chance to show that we want the best players and we want to go in that mindset.”

However, New Zealand has repeatedly said the sanctions will remain until there is evidence of substantial progress toward the return of democracy in Fiji.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully, speaking in Rarotonga where he is on a tour through Pacific island nations, said there would be no exemption for Nakarawa, a 198 centimetre (6ft 5in) 117 kilogramme (258 pound) lock.

“We’ve been very clear that those to whom the individual sanctions apply will not be given exemptions on this occasion,” McCully told reporters.

“I was advised that the Fijian management had assured us that all of those whose names were being submitted (to go to New Zealand) would comply with our requirements, and I’ve had no advice to the contrary yet.”

Fiji’s 35-man World Cup training squad contains 10 members of the side that reached the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Cup including fly-half Nicky Little who has played in three previous World Cups.

However, two other long-serving players Seru Rabeni and Graham Dewes have both been dropped.

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