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Rugby | International Rugby

Jone Qovu © Gallo Images

Racing-Metro boss denies 'Fijigate' scandal



Racing-Metro president Jacky Lorenzetti on Tuesday strenuously denied that the Top 14 club tried to prevent Fiji players from competing in the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Lorenzetti's denial follows comments made by former All Black Simon Mannix that Fijian players at the French club where he coached last year were paid to be unavailable for the World Cup tournament.

But writing in "an open letter to fans concerning Fijigate", published on the club's website Tuesday, Lorenzetti denied the accusations.

"Racing Metro have never prevented any player, neither Fijian or of another nationality from participating in the World Cup or an international tournament," Lorenzetti wrote.

"The selection of one of our players in a national team is a cause for pride and honour in the club," he continued.

"The best proof is that Albert Vulivuli, another Fijian playing for Racing, did indeed participate in the last World Cup.

Mannix had claimed that the French club made payments to encourage Sireli Bobo, Jone Qovu, Josh Matavesi and Virimi Vakatawa to be unavailable for the 2011 Pacific Nations Cup, effectively ruling themselves out of World Cup selection.

But in a statement to AFP on Monday, Mannix claimed that comments made by him during an International Rugby Board (IRB) radio show "Total Rugby" in January 2012 had been "distorted".

"The comments that were attributed to me in this broadcast should be clarified because they were distorted and do not correspond to reality," said Mannix, who now works as backs coach with Irish side Munster.

"In fact, I had just wanted to say that if the club Racing Metro 92 had wanted to, they could have easily compensated the Fijians and presented a cheque to those who did not wish to participate in the World Cup.

"These (players) sometimes prefer to consolidate their club careers faced with the organisational difficulties of rugby in the Pacific Islands and overlapping national and international competitions and their respective calendars," he added.

Winger Bobo and second rower Qovu, who are still playing for Racing Metro, cited "personal reasons" in 2011 for their decision not to play in the Pacific Nations Cup during the Top 14 season.

Racing-Metro signed Cornwall-born Fijian utility back Matavesi from Exeter Chiefs as medical cover in March 2011, and he too said he wanted "to focus on his club" as did winger Vakatawa.

The Fijian Rugby Federation made a formal complaint to their French counterparts over star lock Jone Qovu withdrawing from their autumn test squad claiming he was injured before he then played for Racing-Metro.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) took immediate action in telling Racing that Qovu would not be able to play until December 4 after the period when Fiji had played their three tests.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) will decide whether to open an investigation into the matter during a meeting in Dublin on Tuesday.

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