IRB deny Samoan player ban
Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu (Gallo)
Wellington - The International Rugby Board (IRB) said on Thursday it had not banned firebrand Samoan Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, despite claims from the Pacific nation's coach that he was told to drop the player.
Fuimaono-Sapolu, who has a long history of stirring controversy via his Twitter account, was omitted this week from Samoa's 35-man training squad for the Pacific Nations Cup and a one-off Test against Scotland.
Coach Stephen Betham told the Samoa Observer after the squad was named that Fuimaono-Sapolu was axed because of a directive from the IRB.
"The International Rugby Board has ruled against Eliota playing rugby in IRB-run tournaments," he told the newspaper. "It was made known in a letter."
The IRB said on Twitter on Thursday that Fuimaono-Sapolu was not banned or ineligible from IRB-sanctioned or international matches.
"Comments by Samoa head coach disappointing and untrue," the tweet said.
Fuimaono-Sapolu, who will play club rugby in Japan next season after leaving British side Gloucester, said on Twitter that he had received no notification of any ban and called for the Samoa Rugby Union to produce the letter.
The player, a qualified lawyer, said he planned to release a statement on the issue.
Fuimaono-Sapolu received a suspended six month ban in October after an angry Twitter rant at the World Cup in New Zealand accusing Welsh referee Nigel Owens of racism after Samoa's 13-5 loss to South Africa.
He was in further trouble a month later over a Twitter outburst against Saracens' Owen Farrell, but the IRB decided against activating the ban, citing his "subsequent restraint... and his expressed genuine desire to put the episode behind him".
The Samoa Rugby Union could not be contacted for comment.