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Fuimaono-Sapolu appeal rejected
ESPNscrum Staff
November 26, 2011
Samoa's Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu speaks to the media following the adjournment of his judicial hearing, Vero Centre, Auckland, New Zealand, October 5, 2011
Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu represented himself at his appeal against a suspended six-month ban © Getty Images
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Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu has lost his appeal against a suspended six-month ban for comments he made online about referee Nigel Owens during the Rugby World Cup.

The Gloucester centre was found guilty of misconduct after accusing Owens of racism and also calling his impartiality into question after the Welshman's handling of Samoa's pool stages defeat by South Africa.

At the initial hearing in Auckland, Fuimaono-Sapolu was given a six-month suspension, suspended for two years, subject to three conditions. These were that he gives a full and unconditional apology to Owens and unconditional retraction of any criticism of him; carry out a minimum of 100 hours' rugby community work in Samoa in support of the International Rugby Board (IRB) high performance programme within the next 12 months; and that the player attends and passes a recognised referee course within three months.

However, Fuimaono-Sapolu, who is currently serving a three-week suspension imposed by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) relating to separate Twitter comments, appealed the ban, representing himself at the appeal hearing in London on Sunday.

The Independent Appeal Committee has upheld the original verdict and will now consider whether to enforce the six-month suspension in light of the player's RFU ban for comments made online about Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell.

"Having completed the process, the Appeal Committee agreed that abusive comments regarding match officials on Twitter or other social media platforms was unacceptable and should carry a significant sanction in line with the Judicial Officer's Decision," read a statement released by the IRB on Saturday.

"The initial decision was upheld including the conditions that the suspended sentence will be activated should the player not comply with the sanction conditions.

"However, the Appeal Committee did extend the timescale for completing the refereeing course to six months and adjusted the requirement to complete 100 hours community work to take account of the EFS community Rugby project and other ongoing community commitments of the Player in Samoa. The Player's involvement in these projects was not available to the Judicial Officer at the original hearing.

"The IRB/Rugby World Cup Limited notes the misconduct decision of the RFU against the player on November 7 and will give it consideration following the Independent Appeal Committee's findings today."

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