International Rugby Board Vows To Get Tough On Player Releases
The Int'l Rugby Board insisted it was prepared to impose "significant sanctions" if it found examples of players being prevented from representing their country, according to the AFP. The organization also said that it would be "keeping a close eye on the issue" during this month's int'l matches in Europe. There have "long been concerns" players from the sport's financially poorer countries, particularly in the Pacific Islands, face economic "blackmail" by wealthy clubs in rugby's established nations. Under IRB rules, clubs are obliged to release players during periods designated for full internationals. But clubs have "tried to get round this by agreeing clauses in contracts with players from cash-strapped Pacific Island nations," which then make themselves unavailable for Test duty, as happened at last year's World Cup in New Zealand. With the 2015 World Cup in England "again overlapping with the European domestic season," the practice of clubs offering lucrative incentives to ignore Test calls could see clubs in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa "deprived of key players" (AFP, 11/8).