ELIOTA FUIMAONO-SAPOLU of Gloucester Rugby was tonight banned for three weeks after being found guilty of two charges of Conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Game contrary to Rule 5.12 of the Rules of the Rugby Football Union.
The RFU Disciplinary Panel of Daniel White (chair), Mike Curling and John Doubleday suspended Fuimaono-Sapolu from November 8 to 28. He can play again on November 29.
The Panel found that Fuimaono-Sapolu made or adopted from other users of Twitter, critical or sarcastic comments about the rugby disciplinary process and made, or adopted from other users of Twitter, critical comments about the Rugby World Cup and the International Rugby Board on his Twitter account.
The Panel dismissed the charge of making or adopting from other users of Twitter, insulting or provocative comments about Owen Farrell, a professional rugby player, on his Twitter account.
Panel chair Daniel White said: “The Twitter forum is not one for ‘banter’ and is not the equivalent of a clubhouse discussion – it is in fact a public forum, and for that reason players should be guarded in what is said and therefore endorsed. We note that over 13,000 people are registered to follow Mr Fuimaono-Sapolu on Twitter. It should be noted that young people, those learning the sport and the public at large look to people in his position and for these reasons we have imposed a sentence designed to deter others who may be tempted to act in this way.”
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This finding does not necessarily trigger the suspended sentence imposed on October 15 by the International Rugby Board for breaches of the Rugby World Cup 2011/International Rugby Board Code of Conduct.
The Panel is keen to stress that this decision stands alone and that it is a matter for the IRB to determine whether the actions of Fuimaono-Sapolu constituted a breach of the conditions of that sanction.