x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

More than one reason Fijians may miss World Cup

Apart from the ban by hosts New Zealand on members of Fiji's military to play in the World Cup - a few Fijian professionals have just decided they do not want to participate.

Talent rich but cash poor Fiji, most people's second favourite team, are facing an uphill battle if they are to make their mark at September's World Cup in New Zealand.

It was ever thus, but the issues affecting them this time around are more deep-seated than a simple lack of funding.

They might not even play at all, unless the International Rugby Board can resolve a diplomatic dispute. Six of Fiji's players are currently barred from entering New Zealand because of their ties with the military leader who seized control of the country in 2006.

If they don't play, it is likely neither will Fiji.

It is difficult to believe the Flying Fijians will not be there in some guise, but some of their finest players have already ruled themselves out of selection.

The World Cup will be a lesser place without Isa Nacewa, Filimoni Delasau and Rupeni Caucaunibuca. Each will stay with their European club sides instead of representing their country.

That means the world will be deprived the chance to watch Caucaunibuca, the game's freest spirit. When he turned up on the wing for Toulouse at the business stages of this Top 14 season, he was smuggling at least one spare tyre around his waist.

He was out of shape and out of practise. Did it matter? Not a jot, as the Fijian freight train scorched his way to two tries in the semi-final win over Clermont.

He is brilliant. We can only hope he reconsiders his decision to skip the World Cup.