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Rugby | International Rugby

Fiji coach slams European clubs after loss



Fiji coach Inoke Male accused European clubs of weakening his side and ridding the Pacific Islanders of their natural flair following a record 54-12 defeat by England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The build-up to the opening match of Fiji's northern hemisphere campaign had been overshadowed by allegations European clubs were, contrary to International Rugby Board regulations, refusing to release players to the tour party.

Indeed, the Fijian Rugby Union lodged a formal complaint with their French counterparts after Racing-Metro lock Jone Qovu withdrew from their squad.

Qovu had initially claimed he was injured but then played for Racing against Perpignan on October 27.

The French Rugby Federation responded by banning Qovu from playing for Racing until December 4, which covers Fiji's European tour, which sees them play English Premiership side Gloucester in Tuesday before games against Ireland A and Georgia.

"We lost some of the boys earlier in the week. Some of them weren't released by clubs and some were not available until the last minute, about four players," Male said.

"Had they been available we would have given England a game," added Male, whose team kicked-off at Twickenham on Saturday with just one training session on tour behind them.

"Unfortunately, we haven't got the luxury of having players together for two weeks, like England; we had three days together.

"The turnover time (until the Gloucester match) is just two to three days.

"It is not to our advantage but we will try to win the game before we meet Ireland A on Saturday."

This was Fiji's first test against England in 13 years. It came on the same day as Argentina, who were also once considered a second-tier nation, showed the benefits of their recent involvement in the new southern hemisphere Rugby Championship by beating Six Nations champions Wales 26-12 in Cardiff.

"Fiji would be quite happy to have England coming (to Fiji) every year," said Male. "Tier One nations should give the Pacific Islands more games so we can develop our rugby."

Although largely outclassed at Twickenham, the Fijians did score the try of the match when Glasgow scrum-half Nicola Matawalu's superb solo effort in the 54th minute saw the visitors score their first points of the game.

But despite Matawalu's try, Male was concerned by the overall effect of nothern hemisphere club rugby on a Fiji side where six members of the starting XV on Saturday were with European sides.

"Some of the boys that came to Europe lost their touches in Europe," he said. "The Fijian players are more dangerous when they have the ball in hand.

"We didn't have that today (Saturday) and I think that's why we lost the game."

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