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Fiji joins rugby Sevens parade

Published: 8:35PM Thursday February 01, 2007 Source: One News

The Fijian rugby team stole the show during the sevens parade through the streets of Wellington.

The squad joined 15 other international teams on Thursday in the traditional precursor to this weekend's tournament. That is despite the sanctions that were imposed on their country following December's coup.

While the team will be allowed to compete in the on-field action, the parade's traditional starting point at parliament was a no-go zone for the men from Suva.

The players themselves were keen to distance themselves from the political machinations.

Fijian player-coach Waisele Serevi had a simple focus.

"Our job is to come to New Zealand, to play rugby and represent our country," he said.

Local fans agreed, reserving the loudest support for the little Pacific nation with big political problems.

"I understand the politics of it and we can't have associations - (but) they are here now I think we should support them" said one onlooker and this seemed to reflect the sentiments of many.

Minister for Sport Trevor Mallard said the government had been left with no option and granted entry permission to the Fijians most reluctantly.

"Fiji is not welcome in New Zealand but the arangements with the International Rugby Board mean that we are obliged to have them here or to lose the tournament"

Mallard added that by banning this sporting parade from starting at parliament the government is sending a strong signal to the Fijian goverment.

Green Party Foreign affairs spokesperson Keith Locke remains cynical.

"I think that banning the Sevens from parliament is really just token - we have to get it stronger than that"

Mallard disagrees saying it sends a very important message, albeit in an understated way.

But it is a message that may be used as an on-field weapon and backfire on New Zealand.

Serevi said that the events have served as motivation for his players and they are looking forward to the tournament.

New Zealand Sevens assistant coach Eric Rush agrees with his old adversary, offering some tongue in cheek criticism of the policy.

"Trevor Mallard hasn't done the boys any favours so thanks Trev! but never mind - we'll worry about them when we get to them."

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