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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 23:18 GMT
Caucau quits Fiji
Winger Rupeni Caucaunibuca
If we can't keep our best players then where does that leave us?
Pio Bosco Tikoisuva
Fiji Rugby Union chief executive
Rugby World Cup star Rupeni Caucaunibuca has quit Fiji's national side in a bid to become a New Zealand All Black.

The Fiji Rugby Union reacted angrily to the news, saying it was "a wake up call that the second tier of world rugby was in danger of collapsing".

Caucau reportedly said the FRU could not afford to pay him what he could earn as an All Black.

"I believe I have done my part for Fiji," said the 24-year-old, who returns to New Zealand this week to start pre-season training with the Auckland Blues.

"I am switching allegiance and going for a spot in the All Blacks team."

Under current eligibility regulations, Caucau cannot switch countries because he has played for Fiji in both sevens and full internationals.

But a review of International Rugby Board rules, backed by New Zealand and Australia, may see them re-written.

FRU chief executive Pio Bosco Tikoisuva said there was no understanding of how difficult it was existing in the shadow of "major rugby economies".

"Can you imagine what signal this sends out to our stakeholders, to our young players who dream of becoming like Rupeni?" he said.

"If we can't keep our best players then where does that leave us?"

The issue is not new for Pacific Island rugby.

More than 10 key players for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga made themselves unavailable to play for their country in the Rugby World Cup because of club commitments in Europe.

Tikoisuva said he was disappointed that IRB meetings at the World Cup had produced no new funding or initiatives for second-tier unions.

The IRB is expected to decide on the eligibility review in April at their next council meeting at which none of the Pacific Island Unions have a vote.

Caucau is widely regarded as the deadliest winger in world rugby.

He was a key component of the Blues side that beat the Canterbury Crusaders to win this season's Super 12 title.

And he was one of the stars of the Rugby World Cup, despite playing only two matches.

In Fiji's opening game against France he scored the try of the tournament, a 70-metre solo effort, but was cited for punching Olivier Magne and banned for two games.

He returned for his country's final pool match, against Scotland, and scored two tries, although Fiji were narrowly beaten.

Links to more Fiji stories


World Cup's unlucky losers
03 Nov 03  |  Rugby World Cup
Scotland shatter brave Fiji
01 Nov 03  |  Rugby World Cup
French star backs Caucau ban
14 Oct 03  |  France

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