The absence of Clermont’s Alivereti Raka from Fiji’s November touring squad is fuelling speculation that he is working towards winning a place in the France squad.
The winger, who has scored six tries in this campaign as he carries over his impressive form from last season, was a notable absentee on John McKee’s squad list for the matches against Italy, Ireland and Canada – on which Nemani Nadolo only makes the standby list.
There is no denying that Fiji boast an abundance of hugely talented wingers. Two plying their trade in France, Josua Tusova and Timoci Nagusa, are in the squad. As are other France-based players – including Leone Nakarawa, Peceli Yato, Akapusi Qera, Levani Botia and Kini Murimurivalu.
But Raka’s omission has fuelled rumours that the 23 year old may be about to switch allegiance. The idea was first mooted in Monday’s Midi Olympique, before McKee announced his squad.
Raka, who is married to a French woman and has a baby daughter, would qualify on existing World Rugby residency grounds from December, having lived in France since November 2014.
But it is claimed he is planning to apply for French citizenship. It would be a necessary step, under plans unveiled by FFR president Bernard Laporte earlier this year. He told World Rugby that France would only consider French citizens for the national side.
Under normal circumstances, French citizenship requires a five-year residency period. But because Raka is married to a French citizen, that period is four years. He could, therefore, become French from November 2018. The qualifying period can be reduced further.
The prospect of the Pacific Islands national teams losing another player to the residency rules has angered Pacific Rugby Welfare.
Raka trained at the Nadroga Academy. It is tied to Clermont’s Fiji academy, which produced club team-mates Yato and Noa Nakaitaci. While Yato proudly wears the white shirt of Fiji, Nakaitaci now has 15 caps for France since making his debut in 2015.
Pacific Rugby Welfare branded the academy “illegal” in a tweet thread discussing Raka’s future.
— Pacific RugbyWelfare (@PacificRPW) October 16, 2017
The organisation is concerned Fiji could lose Raka to France, as it has with Nakaitaci and Racing 92’s Virimi Vakatawa.
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