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Akapusi Qera - No favours for Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni on Saturday

Published 18/11/2016

Akapusi Qera captains Fiji against England on Saturday
Akapusi Qera captains Fiji against England on Saturday

Akapusi Qera insists Fiji do not resent Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni for pledging allegiance to England, but has promised them a bone-jarring reception on Saturday.

The second autumn international at Twickenham has cast the spotlight on the issue of overseas agents, clubs and nations plundering Pacific Islands talent and the vast disparity in pay.

Rokoduguni and Hughes have qualified for England on residency grounds and will earn a match fee of £22,000, while the Fijians must settle for a daily allowance of £60 during their tour.

In a damning statistic, all four wings in France's Test against Australia in Paris on Saturday night are of Fijian origin.

Qera, Fiji's captain, understands the motivation for players heralding from his poverty-stricken homeland to seek the riches available overseas, but insists there will be a price to pay on the pitch.

"At the moment we are happy for the boys getting the achievement," Qera said.

"We have got the likes of Waisake Naholo at the All Blacks, the Australian boys Tevita Kuridrani and Henry Speight, and then Semsea and Nathan.

"We are happy for them and happy for the achievement. We cannot stop them from trying to progress their rugby careers.

"But as I always say, on the field it's a totally different ball game. We will meet up after the game as mates, but during the game it will be a different story."

Hughes, who starts on the bench with Rokoduguni on the right wing, accepts the welcome signposted by Qera.

"I do understand it. If you're an Islander, and I have this opportunity to play against Fiji, you know what is coming," Hughes said.

"You take it and you have got to give it back. They'll know it's coming too."

Hughes made his Test debut as a replacement in the 37-21 victory over South Africa having qualified for England on residency grounds in June, saying of his choice: "I play my rugby to support my family and put shelter over their heads."

Fiji coach Johns McKee admits there were attempts to persuade Hughes to choose the country of his birth and does see a solution to the problem.

"I spoke to Nathan a number of times over the past three years and he never actually made himself available to play for Fiji, which was disappointing," McKee said.

"People make their own decisions. It is their life, it is their livelihood, it is their family.

"Under the current regulations after 36 months you are eligible to play for a country based on continuous residency.

"The Fiji Rugby Union's policy is that it should be extended to 60 months, which is five years.

"In the current professional era of the game I think that would be a more realistic timeframe."

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