Troubled Fiji back on course for World Cup rehabilitation
The organisers of next year’s home World Cup were in full “500 days to go” mode at Twickenham, announcing details of ticket sales, trophy tour dates and volunteering programmes.
But perhaps most importantly, the International Rugby Board chief executive, Brett Gosper, indicated that Fiji, that most troubled of sporting countries, would be back in everyone’s good books in time to play in the tournament – a relief, given that they are scheduled to be England’s first opponents.
All direct cash support from the governing body was frozen in January due to serious concerns over the Fijian union’s performance in a variety of areas, including governance and financial control.
There have also been problems with the Pacific island’s seven-a-side team, which will not be at this summer’s Commonwealth Games, despite being the biggest box-office attraction in the sport.
Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth, imposed as a result of the country’s military coup in 2006, was partially lifted earlier this year in recognition of progress towards a restoration of democracy, but the draw for the sevens competition had already been made and there was no room for adjustment.
Happily for all concerned, there is an easing of the tension created by recent events. The Fijians have decided against staging a boycott of the Commonwealth Games across all sports, although they remain bitterly upset at the exclusion of their pride and joy, the sevens team.
As for World Cup participation – their final qualification match against the Cook Islands takes place in Lautoka next month and they are expected to win by a landslide – Gosper said moves were afoot to smooth their path towards the England game in 16 months’ time.
“We did suspend funding for Fiji, but there have been meetings recently and that suspension will soon be lifted,” he confirmed. “They’ve taken significant strides towards putting their house in order and their finances are in much better shape, not least because they’ve just agreed a big sponsorship deal.
“It’s not as if we’ve taken money away from them; it was frozen, and it was always our intention to release the funds once the necessary improvements were made.”
Fiji may well suffer a loss soon, however – and a damaging one, too. Nathan Hughes, the No 8 from Lautoka who has made such an impact with Wasps over the last few weeks, is currently weighing up his options at international level and there is no guarantee he will commit himself to his homeland, who would certainly pick him for their European tour this autumn, if not for the Cook Islands game. Under IRB regulations, Hughes will be eligible for England in 2016. “It’s a decision for him,” Gosper said.
Wasps, who face Stade Français in a home-and-away play-off for the final place in next season’s inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup, will host the ambitious Parisians at Adams Park a week on Sunday, with the return leg the following Saturday.
Arsenal have 'too many strikers' claims Arsene Wenger, despite admitting Lukas Podolski is 'not a real centre-forward'
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger says he will be 'actively involved' on deadline day... but may not buy a striker despite Giroud injury
Fernando Torres to AC Milan: Jose Mourinho talks up Mattia Destro with Torres on verge of Chelsea exit
Mario Balotelli has been 'spoken to at length' and Liverpool have ensured he lives on Merseyside rather than Manchester
Burnley vs Manchester United: Why Louis van Gaal has been unflustered by United's terrible start to the season
- 1 Strictly Come Dancing 2014: Gregg Wallace joins line-up as final celebrities revealed
- 4 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage