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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 22) – Fiji rugby has taken a financial blow with the announcement that telecommunications giant Vodafone will end its 10-year association with the Pacific nation’s major sport at the end of this month.

Vodafone injected more than US$1 million into Fijian rugby since taking up the sponsorship in 1994.

But Fiji’s lack of recent international exposure - exacerbated by the reluctance of the leading rugby nations to tour the Pacific - is thought to have caused the sponsors to rethink their strategy.

Fiji, like Samoa and Tonga, has struggled to be financially viable, highlighted during last year’s World Cup in Australia and this year’s inaugural Pacific Islanders’ tour of New Zealand and Australia.

But Fiji Rugby Union’s (FRU) marketing manager Tim King was optimistic FRU will find a major sponsor to replace Vodafone.

December 23, 2004

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

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