Fiji's Ryder to skip Dubai

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am

Fiji sensation William Ryder dropped a bombshell when he withdrew from next week's World Cup in Dubai citing injury. The Japan-based star's withdrawal is a sign of the deep division in Fiji rugby following the acrimonious sacking of his mentor and coach, Waisale Serevi, last month.

Ryder's pull-out not only leaves Fiji's World Cup defence in jeopardy, but it also casts serious doubt over his participation at next month's Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens.

Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) officials, who kicked out Serevi as coach of the sevens team this month, tried to downplay the loss of Ryder (pictured), who paid for his own airfare back to the country last weekend to give himself a chance of selection for the World Cup from March 5-7.

'The other players deserve a call-up as they are all present at camp,' coach Iliesa Tanivula, told the Fiji Times. 'I will not run and chase a player if he does not want to be part of the team.'

Ryder, who was part of the team - alongside Serevi - who won the Melrose Cup in 2005 in Hong Kong, claimed he was recovering from an ankle and calf injury.

But it is believed his close link with Serevi was the main reason behind his pull-out. Serevi was sacked as national coach apparently after he went against the dictates of the FRU, which only wanted him in a coaching role.

Serevi played in this month's Marist Sevens in Wellington, and his team had included Ryder who had refused to play in a FRU-backed side.

The loss of Ryder will be a huge blow to Fiji, who are languishing in fifth place in the IRB Sevens this season, 28 points behind joint-leaders South Africa and England.