IRB rejects Fijian player claims

The International Rugby Board has rejected claims it failed to do all it could to ensure Fiji was able to select its overseas-based players for its November internationals in Europe.

In a statement Friday, the IRB said it “strongly refutes” comments from Fiji’s coaching staff that it did not assist Fiji to gain access to players primarily based in France ahead of last Saturday’s test loss to Scotland.

Fiji’s Australian co-coach Glen Ella said Fiji was missing as many as five starters in the Edinburgh test because of unresolved club versus country conflicts.

Ella, a former Wallaby and Australian sevens coach, didn’t name the players involved but said several of Fiji’s top players had been coerced to remain with their clubs, in contravention of IRB regulations.

IRB Regulation Nine states that any player sought by his national union for matches within approved test “windows” must be released by his club. The IRB is required to assist in obtaining that release if required and clubs that coerce or attempt to withhold requested players can be heavily fined.

The IRB said in its statement Friday that it had not acted on Fiji’s behalf in any disputes over player availability because it had not been requested to do so.

“The International Rugby Board strongly refutes claims made by members of the Fiji national team coaching staff that the game’s governing body is doing little to assist the union with the release of players for the November rests,” the statement said.

“Where the IRB has been asked to assist in the release of players from clubs for the November 2009 test matches, intervention has ensured that the player has been released by his club for international duty or that confirmation has been provided of a player’s unavailability to play owing to injury.”

The IRB said Fiji had not sought its assistance in any dispute over a player’s availability.

“In regard to the Fiji Rugby Union position, the IRB can confirm that no formal request was made for intervention and if one had been made the IRB would have worked with all stakeholders involved to assist with the release of players,” the release said.

“The Fiji Rugby Union is familiar with the process required to assist with player release and has received assistance in the past.”

Fiji Rugby Union chief executive Keni Dakuidreketi had earlier said players were seldom actively prohibited by their clubs from playing for their country but several felt pressured to decline international selection.

“The players need to be released and that is a rule, but it is always the players’ call and they sometimes have a difficult time with their clubs,” Dakuidreketi said.


“However, we cannot point fingers at anyone but just take it to the IRB.

“The players need to be with their clubs as this is their bread and butter as well.”

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