Fuimaono-Sapolu's hearing adjourned until Oct. 15
Updated: October 05, 2011, 07:05
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Outspoken Samoa center Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu received an adjournment in his World Cup judicial hearing and was urged to refrain from further comment in social media on his misconduct charge on Wednesday.
English judicial officer Jeff Blackett granted a request from Fuimaono-Sapolu to adjourn his hearing to Oct. 15, but remained provisionally suspended from all rugby in the meantime.
The player was charged over his comments on Twitter about Nigel Owens after he refereed South Africa's 13-5 win over Samoa last Friday in a quarterfinals decider. Fuimaono-Sapolu described Owens as "racist'' and "biased,'' adding "get s.a into next round. The plan was obvious. Can't wait 2 meet irb members in public.''
Fuimaono-Sapolu said he received 600 pages of material from the International Rugby Board only hours before his hearing and needed more time to prepare his defense. He also wanted to attend a Samoa government reception for the team this weekend.
He walked into Wednesday's hearing with his parents, still feeling hard done by.
"There's been no legislation passed here in New Zealand in regards to ratifying their power,'' Fuimaono-Sapolu, who is qualified in law, told New Zealand television's 3 News. "So can rugby be used as a means to shut down freedom of speech?''
Fuimaono-Sapolu missed the original hearing on Tuesday because he said he wasn't informed by the Samoa Rugby Union. The SRU said in a statement early Wednesday that it was "extremely disappointed'' in his failure to respond to its communications, and described his comments to New Zealand television late Tuesday, in defense of his twitter comments, "exceptionally disappointing.''
"It's really disappointing to hear (SRU's reaction) but that's OK,'' Fuimaono-Sapolu told television's Campbell Live on Wednesday. "I don't want them to be liable for my tweets. It's unfair to blame the Samoa Rugby Union.''
The SRU accepted a misconduct charge on Tuesday for failing "to control'' Fuimaono-Sapolu. Team officials and tournament organizers warned the player two weeks ago about his social media comments, after he likened the shorter rest periods between games for lower-tier teams to slavery.
Martin Snedden, the CEO of Rugby New Zealand 2011, said local organizers were as much to blame as the IRB for scheduling the minor teams with four-day breaks compared to the week-long rests enjoyed by the top teams.
Asked if the scheduling for the lower-tier teams was fair, Snedden said no.
"It's a vexed issue,'' Snedden told Campbell Live. "The criticism that comes up about it, it's perfectly reasonable.''
Making the pool draw was a nightmare, he added.
"We've got 23 days that we have to fit 40 matches into and logistically, regionally, it's a nightmare,'' Snedden said.
"We went through 63 drafts of the draw. A lot of that time was spent trying to reduce the number of times a team would be put into a situation where they've been squeezed too tight.''
In the end, he said they had to accommodate broadcasters paying millions to see the top teams play in primetime, especially the weekends.