Rugby Rugby

Passport control: Fiji and South African stars not French yet

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Alivereti Raka, pictured August 2018, and Paul Willemse have applied for French nationality but until all the formalities are completed, then their hopes of pushing for a possible place at the 2019 World Cup have been put on hold © AFP/File / THIERRY ZOCCOLAN

PARIS, France, Oct 17 – Fiji winger Alivereti Raka and South African lock Paul Willemse were thwarted in their attempts to be included in France’s November Test squad on Wednesday after they were told they need to wait until they have their French passports in their hands.

Raka, 25, has been on Clermont’s books for three years while fellow 25-year-old Willemse plays for Montpellier after starting his club career with the Lions and Bulls in his native South Africa.

Both men have applied for French nationality but until all the formalities are completed, then their hopes of pushing for a possible place at the 2019 World Cup have been put on hold.

They had hoped to have their new passports sanctioned earlier this week.

“To make the request (to become a citizen) already shows that you have the will to be French — it is a good thing. But if you do not have the passport, you are not French,” French rugby federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte told AFP after coach Jacques Brunel had announced his squad.

Former national coach Laporte had objected to foreign-born players being integrated into the French team after he became federation chief in 2016.

However, he backtracked in May, opening the door for the likes of Raka and Willemse to follow in the footsteps of South Africans Pieter de Villiers and Brian Liebenberg who represented France when he was coach between 2000 and 2007.

Raka has never featured at any level for Fiji internationally, while Willemse played for South Africa’s Under-20 side in their victorious 2012 Junior World Championship campaign.

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