AUCKLAND, New Zealand, September 20 – Samoa apologised and received a warning Tuesday after a player compared the World Cup to “slavery” and “apartheid”, escalating a row over the tournament’s schedule.
Samoan team representatives made the formal apology at a meeting with World Cup officials after centre Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono made the angry comments on Twitter after their loss to Wales.
Organisers called the remarks “inappropriate” but said there would be no sanctions against Samoa, one of several smaller teams who have voiced concerns about the time-tabling of matches.
“While RWCL (Rugby World Cup Limited) believes the nature of the comments to be inappropriate and has warned the Samoa Rugby Union regarding future social media conduct, RWCL has accepted an official apology and is satisfied with the proactive measures that the Union has outlined to RWCL to address the matter,” a statement said.
“There will be no further action and RWCL considers the matter to be closed.”
Sapolu Fuimaono had been facing possible disciplinary action over his outburst over a timetable which gives the traditionally stronger teams longer intervals between games to maximise weekend TV audiences.
The Gloucester player was incensed that Samoa had just three days to recover from their previous game while Wales had a week. Samoa led 10-6 at half-time but faded in the second half as Wales won 17-10 on Sunday.
“IRB, Stop exploiting my people. Please, all we ask, is fairness. If they get a week, give us a week. Simple. #equ[al]ity #justice,” Sapolu Fuimaono tweeted, referring to the International Rugby Board.
Later he added: “Ok, it’s obvious the IRB are unjust. Wales get 7 days, we get 3. Unfair treatment, like slavery, like the holocaust, like apartheid.
“Give Wales 3 days off and give Samoa a week! We would kill them!
“You can’t get punished for speaking out against injustice. That would be unjust. Anyone can tackle a man. Try tackling injustice.”
The IRB had earlier defended its scheduling and said the Twitter tirade was disappointing.
The row overshadowed Italy’s bonus-point 53-17 victory over Russia which kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals from Pool C, which also brackets Australia and Ireland.
The Italians romped home with nine tries but debutants Russia also celebrated their first ever World Cup tries through Alexander Yanyushkin, Vladimir Ostroushko and Alexey Makovetskiy.
“We started the game very well, the first half I was very happy with,” said Italy’s South African coach, Nick Mallet.
“And then we got a bit loose and I made a lot of changes. But give them credit, they played some very nice, attacking rugby, held on to the ball and ran at us.”
Fiji flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu became the second player to be suspended when he received a three-week ban for a dangerous tip-tackle — ruling him out of the remaining pool games and a possible quarter-final.
England lock Courtney Lawes earlier received a two-match ban while USA captain Todd Clever escaped sanction for a dangerous tackle.
But off-field issues dominated as a Maori leader maintained that New Zealand’s iconic haka war-dance had been “hijacked by rugby people” and backed controversial comments from South Africa coach Peter de Villiers that it was over-exposed.
“I’m concerned our culture is being abused by the overuse and inappropriateness of the haka when it is performed outside special occasions,” Peter Love, trustee of an organisation which administers Maori reserves, told Fairfax media.
“The haka in our culture is something which is regarded as special and should not be bastardised by sport. Peter de Villiers is dead right when he says it is losing its respect.”
Separately, a Scottish bagpiper launched a Facebook campaign to overturn a stadium ban on the traditional instruments, complaining that overzealous officials were ruining the tournament’s atmosphere.
“After spending considerable money getting to New Zealand to support my country I was shocked to hear bagpipes were not allowed in the stadiums,” bagpiper Matt Strachan told The Scotsman newspaper.