x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Sapolu to fight IRB suspension

AUCKLAND, new zealand // Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono, the Samoa centre, is willing to risk his career to achieve "justice" for smaller nations after he was suspended from all rugby by the International Rugby Board (IRB) when he failed to appear at a judicial hearing in Auckland yesterday.

Sapolu Fuimaono had been summoned to the hearing after he labelled Nigel Owens, the Welsh referee, "biased" and a "racist" on social networking website Twitter following his side's 13-5 Rugby World Cup Pool D loss to South Africa on Friday.

The IRB said the hearing was adjourned when the player failed to appear, and then suspended him until another hearing could be held.

"I had an idea there was a hearing but I had no idea when," the 30-year-old centre told Television New Zealand. "It's ridiculous, they have obviously put out a punishment without hearing the other side of the story."

Sapolu Fuimaono, a trained lawyer, said the IRB had been "blatantly unfair" with its treatment of tier two nations and he did not think he would get a fair hearing from them.

The Samoan had previously apologised and escaped punishment for an earlier outburst on the social media site in which he lambasted the scheduling of Samoa's World Cup matches.

Match scheduling has been a controversial issue at the World Cup and the IRB has been criticised for giving the smaller nations shorter turnaround times between matches.

Sapulo Fuimaono said he realised his rugby career could come to an end because of the row.

"To throw away rugby because I'm fighting for justice is odd," he said. "If that happens I'm definitely not throwing it away, I'm having my career squashed by injustice. I just want the next generation of Samoan rugby players to be given a level playing field."

The IRB has appointed Owens to take charge of the quarter-final between New Zealand and Argentina.

* Reuters