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Mannix backtracks on Fiji World Cup 'blackmail'

Former All Black Simon Mannix on Monday backtracked on comments he allegedly made that Fijian players at the French club he coached last year were paid to be unavailable for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Mannix had claimed that French club Racing Metro made payments to encourage Sireli Bobo, Jone Qovu, Josh Matavesi and Virimi Vakatawa to be unavailable for the 2011 Pacific Nations Cup, effectively ruling themselves out of World Cup selection.

But in a statement to AFP on Monday, Mannix claimed that comments made by him during an International Rugby Board (IRB) radio show "Total Rugby" in January 2012 had been distorted.

"The comments that were attributed to me in this broadcast should be clarified because they were distorted and do not correspond to reality," said Mannix, who now works as backs coach with Irish side Munster.

"In fact, I had just wanted to say that if the club Racing Metro 92 had wanted to, they could have easily compensated the Fijians and presented a cheque to those who did not wish to participate in the World Cup.

"These (players) sometimes prefer to consolidate their club careers faced with the organisational difficulties of rugby in the Pacific Islands and overlapping national and international competitions and their respective calendars," he added.

Winger Bobo and second rower Qovu, who are still playing for Racing Metro, cited "personal reasons" in 2011 for their decision not to play in the Pacific Nations Cup during the Top 14 season.

Racing Metro signed Cornwall-born Fijian utility back Matavesi from Exeter Chiefs as medical cover in March 2011, and he too said he wanted "to focus on his club" as did winger Vakatawa.

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