IRB Boss says Fiji will attend Rugby World Cup

Fiji will take part in this year’s World Cup in spite of a New Zealand visa ban on anyone associated with the Pacific island’s military junta, according to Mike Miller, the secretary general of the International Rugby Board (IRB).

“Fiji will be at the Rugby World Cup and will have a competitive team,” Miller told a press conference in Paris on Thursday.

“Discussions are taking place and we hope to resolve the issue as best as we can.

“Fiji will take part but what the (New Zealand) government has clearly said is that any players with connection with the military will not be given visas”.

Since the coup of 5 December 2006, the New Zealand government has barred entry to anyone linked with the leadership of Voreque Bainimarama, notably the military.

The problem for the Fijian rugby team is that five or six of their likely squad for the World Cup are in the army. However, Miller brushed the issue aside.

“If there is any concern on how good the Fijian team will be, just look at the number of their players based in Europe (playing professionally) or elsewhere and how many come from Fiji itself. Those with military connections will be domestic players,” said Miller.

The IRB has not placed a time limit on Fiji’s participation although president Bernard Lapasset said that if Fiji ultimately did not take part then Uruguay, who were knocked out in the final qualifier, would take their place.

Fiji have been drawn in pool D with defending champions South Africa, Wales, Samoa and Namibia.

The World Cup kicks off on September 9 with the final on October 23.

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