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Wednesday Nov 6, 2019

France's Top 14 criticised after treatment of star Fijian Leone Nakawara

Racing 92 lock Leone Nakwara’s no-show to training since the Rugby World Cup is one story this week that could have major consequences.

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The 31-year-old has failed to turn up to training following his two-week break after the tournament, and while it is believed that he is in Fiji building a house with his club’s consent, it was initially reported that the Parisian club were planning on firing him if he does not return.

While many people have sympathised with Racing 92, as Nakawara is an employee of theirs who they desperately need as they sit second from bottom in the league, this has sparked new concerns about the Top 14’s treatment of players.

Clubs in the Top 14 have long been criticised from not prioritising player welfare, which was glaringly shown recently when Thomas Ramos ran out for Toulouse only a week after being sent home from the France squad with an injury at the RWC.

Two weeks rest has not been deemed enough, particularly for foreign players that may only get a chance to visit their home once a year. The Gallagher Premiership and the Pro14 have been used as examples in how players should be treated, although that is still largely down to the clubs, as Stuart Hogg ran out for the Exeter Chiefs a week after Scotland crashed out of the RWC.

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However, this has also tied into concerns with how Pacific Island players are treated in France, as it is a long held view that players from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are blackmailed into not playing for their country in order to remain with their clubs. This treatment of the 2018 European player of the year has only fanned those flames.

The problem for Racing 92 is that, while they may feel within their rights to sack Nakawara, this would only create a bidding war amongst their biggest rivals for the lock. Very few clubs in Europe would turn down the chance to sign Nakarawa if the opportunity arose, which is why this may just be a hollow threat from the French giants.

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