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Rugby News: RWC final TMO quits over 'torrent of abuse', Wallabies Grand Slam tour touted, Fiji lock facing jail

4th December, 2023
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4th December, 2023
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The man who worked as the television match official for this year’s Rugby World Cup final has stepped away from the international game “for the foreseeable future”, saying a “torrent of criticism and abuse online” led him to the decision.

Englishman Tom Foley made a series of big calls in the decider between New Zealand and South Africa in October, including recommending a red card for All Blacks captain Sam Cane in the first half. The Springboks won the game 12-11.

“The pressure and scrutiny I came under after the Rugby World Cup final, along with a torrent of criticism and abuse online, has helped to reaffirm that this is the right decision for me at this point in my life,” Foley said in a statement released by England’s Rugby Football Union.

“While it’s a privilege to be at the heart of some of the sport’s most iconic moments, the increasing levels of vitriol, when the demands and expectation are so high, have led me to this moment.”

The match referee, Wayne Barnes, who announced his retirement from all officiating after the final, has subsequently expressed concern at the abuse he and his family have received on social media since the match.

Last week, England captain Owen Farrell said he was stepping away from international rugby temporarily to “prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being,” according to his club, Saracens.

Foley, who has been a referee for 13 years, said last month that some online trolls said they wished his family would “die in a dreadful car accident” while others have emailed his children’s school to dish out abuse.

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“The abuse he has suffered since the Rugby World Cup final, along with other officials involved in that game, is totally unacceptable and no one should be treated in this way, doing their job for the sport they are so committed to and passionate about,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said.

“We will do everything possible to help guard against the abuse aimed at match officials and players, and would urge everyone in our game to consider the role they can play in upholding rugby values.”

Foley officiated in 48 international matches including eight in this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Wallabies set for four-Test tour in 2024

The Wallabies could mark the 40th anniversary of their 1984 Grand Slam tour by playing the four home nations on next year’s Spring Tour.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Wallabies have already locked in a Test against England on November 9 at Twickenham and are working on matches against Wales on November 16 at Principality Stadium, Scotland on November 23 at Murrayfield and Ireland the following weekend at Aviva Stadium.

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Australia and Wales contest a line out during the Rugby World Cup 2023, Pool C match at the OL Stadium in Lyon, France. Picture date: Sunday September 24, 2023. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)

Australia and Wales contest a lineout. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)

The paper reports that the Wallabies will depart after facing New Zealand in September in a Bledisloe Cup fixture in Sydney – the first in four years.

Fiji Barbarian facing jail time

 Fiji rugby union international Api Ratuniyarawa on Monday admitted committing a series of sex offences before he was due to play for the Barbarians against Wales.

The 37-year-old lock pleaded guilty to two charges of assault by penetration and one of sexual assault when he appeared before a court in Cardiff.

The offences against three women took place between October 31 and November 2, two days before the Barbarians-Wales match at the Principality Stadium on November 4.

Ratuniyarawa, who joined French club Bayonne on a short-term deal after London Irish went into receivership and was called up to Fiji’s World Cup squad in October, had been due to be on the bench for the match.

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His lawyer, Ruth Smith, said her client, a married father of four young children, had been hoping an appearance with the invitational side would lead to a new contract.

The offending “arose out of primarily the consumption of alcohol”, she added.

Ratuniyarawa entered not guilty pleas to two further charges of sexual assault relating to one of the three women, which were accepted by the prosecution.

A judge at Cardiff Crown released the player on conditional bail and placed him on the sex offenders register until sentencing on January 9.

Welsh forward reveals diagnosis

The former Wales forward Andrew Coombs has revealed he has been diagnosed with dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at the age of 39.

Coombs is one of the 295 retired rugby union players who have brought a legal claim against three of the sport’s governing bodies alleging they sustained brain injuries during their careers.

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“I’m writing to share some personal news that has deeply impacted my life and the lives of my loved ones,” he wrote on X. “Eight months ago, I was diagnosed with dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy after suffering symptoms for around four years.


“This first came to my attention whilst featuring on a live episode of Scrum V Sunday, where discussions around CTE symptoms resonated with me deeply. It was a challenging decision to seek medical advice. However, understanding the changes happening within me became imperative. The diagnosis was a heartbreaking one but it answered many questions that had been lingering in my mind and worrying me for so long.”

The former England captain Phil Vickery and the former Wales fly-half Gavin Henson were revealed to be part of the legal case last week after waiving their anonymity in the claims against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union.

The burning issue was a contributing factor to a tackle height trial in Australian rugby launched last week.

Smith back to basics

England and Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith says he has had to go “back to basics” on returning to the position for his club after playing at full-back during the World Cup.

Smith was deployed at 15 in France instead of at No.10.

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Marcus Smith of England kicks past Rob Valetini and Kurtley Beale of Australia during the Autumn Nations Series match between England and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on November 13, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“I found it hard the last three weeks that I have been playing,” Smith told BBC Radio London.

“The last six months prior to that I’ve been playing and training predominantly at 15, so I tried to bring it back to basics this week.

“I had a good chat with the coaches and the psychologist at the club. It was just about putting my super strengths on the park at 10 and making good decisions, and off the back of that I can influence the team and lead.

“It was massively important for me to get back on page do the basics well. I wasn’t happy with my performances the last three weeks, so to finish this Premiership block with this performance on the back of all the hard work the boys did, I’m really happy and I know all the boys are.”

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