Fiji rugby union player Sireli Naqelevuki has been turned down for a UK visa to play in the premiership for the new season.
Naqelevuki has now been forced to end his relationship with the Exeter Chiefs, which he joined in 2010 from the South Africa Stormers. The centre was denied a new UK visa because he had only made 12 appearances for the club in the last two seasons due to injuries. He scored 11 tries in 39 appearances for the Chiefs, who won the LV= Cup when they beat Northampton in the final last year.
The Chiefs confirmed that the club had intended to offer Naqelevuki a new contract and that the player had also been keen to remain with the premiership side.
Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter said: “Sireli’s injury problems over the last 18 months meant he did not make that much rugby for us and that was the deciding factor in that they would not grant him a visa.
“It is a shame because he has been a fantastic player for us and a real inspiration for us too in our time in the premiership. That was particularly the case in our first couple of seasons, when I have no doubt he was probably one of the best centres in the premiership.”
Naqelevuki had been beset with knee problems over the last two seasons, which had also prevented him playing in the LV= Cup final.
Baxter said the way that the player was leaving the club was a “tragic” way for his time to end in the UK both because the Chiefs wanted him to stay and he also wanted to remain with the club, but also because “we didn’t get to say goodbye in the way we would have liked to at the end of the season”.