November 11, 2012
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FFR suspends Qovu over injury claims

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) has suspended lock Jone Qovu from featuring for his Top 14 club Racing Metro following his withdrawal from the Flying Fijians Europe Tour.

FRU had informed the FFR in September they would be requiring four of their French-based players, including Qovu, for the tour.

However, Qovu informed the Flying Fijians officials that he would be unable to join up with the squad as he was injured, but then played for Racing against Perpignan in their Top 14 clash on October 27.

And this has prompted FFR to punish Paris-based Racing for their apparent refusal to comply with International Rugby Board regulations which say clubs must release players for designated international matches.

FFR has ruled that  Qovu will not be able to play for them during this month's international window.

"We asked Racing to explain to us why the player in question had refused to join up with the squad, if he really was injured and if that was the case how was he then fit enough to play against Perpignan," an FFR source told AFP on Saturday.

"We never received a reply. This week, the Fijian Federation wrote to us again to say that Qovu had not joined up with them.

"It was not the club that opposed him joining up with his national squad but it was the player himself who informed his Federation."

Fiji coach Inoke Male, speaking after the England defeat, refused to be drawn specifically on Qovu's case, telling reporters at Twickenham: "I will not comment about that. I think the FRU (Fiji Rugby Union) have done all that."

Racing's Swiss president Jacky Lorenzetti told AFP the club had nothing to reproach themselves over the Qovu affair but had been an innocent party and were now being punished unfairly.

"We have put together a file which we will pass on to the FFR which will show that the club has nothing to do with this affair," he said.

"What is damaging to the club, is that the FFR, without even hearing our version of events, suspended Jone Qovu till December 4. We are going to try and have this suspension lifted."

This move by the Fijian Federation comes days after Racing's former coach Simon Mannix alleged in English daily 'The Independent' his old club had paid three Fijians, including Qovu, to not play for Fiji in last year's World Cup.

Such a move, strongly denied by Racing, would be contrary to IRB regulations, as the global governing body re-iterated earlier this week.

Qovu did not feature as Racing-Metro went down 17-16 at home to Top 14 tailenders Mont-de-Marsan on Saturday.

The Flying Fijians, who minus Qovu started their European tour with a 54-12 Test defeat by England at Twickenham on Saturday, play English Premiership side Gloucester on Tuesday, Ireland A in a non-cap match on November 17 and Georgia i Tbilisi on November 24.

By Reginald Chandar/AFP

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