Fiji's World Cup team arrived in Auckland Monday as excitement around the tournament intensified, but the players' boss was forced to stay as home due to a New Zealand government ban.
The Flying Fijians were the first foreign team to touch down in New Zealand for the global showcase, which kicks off on September 9.
However, Fiji Rugby union chairman Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, who is also commander of the Fiji military's land forces, had to wave the team off at Nadi airport after officials in Wellington refused to give him a visa.
New Zealand has barred Fijian soldiers from entering the country since the military seized control of the government in a 2006 coup, saying it wants democracy restored in the Pacific nation.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Tikoitoga's application to accompany the national side during the tournament was received last week and immediately refused.
"The sanctions are there for a reason and banned means banned," McCully told Radio New Zealand International.
A spokesman for the minister said another rugby official with links to the regime, who has not been named, was also refused a visa.
Among the team that arrived Monday was lock Leone Nakarawa, who was given special permission to enter New Zealand earlier this month after he resigned from the military to sidestep the ban.
More teams, including England and France, will arrive in New Zealand this week to set up camp ahead of the tournament, which is the largest event ever staged in the country.
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