Tweet it quietly, but Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu will be back on a rugby field tonight for the first time since committing the latest of his many social media misdemeanours a little over three weeks ago.
The Samoan centre, whose brilliant performance against the Springboks at the World Cup in September was rather overshadowed by his dramatic contributions to the debates over tournament scheduling and refereeing standards, starts for Gloucester in the Premiership match at Newcastle.
Fuimaono-Sapolu is not naturally inclined to under-reaction – his fury at the treatment of his national team during the global gathering led him to compare the perceived injustice to slavery, apartheid and the Holocaust, and drove him to accuse the Welsh official Nigel Owens of racism – and he was thoroughly carpeted by the International Rugby Board as a consequence. Did that teach him to keep his views to himself? Not quite. No sooner had he resurfaced at Kingsholm than he took to the Twittersphere to offer his critical views on the young Saracens midfielder Owen Farrell. This led to an immediate three-week rest without the option, and the IRB may yet activate a suspended six-month ban by way of reinforcing the point, although this is now considered unlikely.
"Eliota is a world-class player and all I want from him is to prove how good he is, every week," said Bryan Redpath, the Gloucester coach, who has paired the South Seas islander with Mike Tindall – the England centre who has had a disciplinary problem or two of his own just recently. "He's keen to do his talking on the pitch. I'm told he's put his tweeting to bed, although I don't look at that stuff so I wouldn't know."
Redpath, who believes his side would have beaten Leicester at Kingsholm last weekend had his prize centre been on the pitch, welcomes back James Simpson-Daniel and his fellow wing Tom Voyce, and will run Dave Lewis ahead of the Scottish international Rory Lawson at scrum-half. Another Lawson, the hooker Scott, returns to the front row.
Newcastle, bottom of the table by a fair distance and uncomfortably aware of the relegation scrap to come, have made no fewer than seven changes to the side that took a walloping from the Premiership pacesetters Harlequins five days ago. Greg Goosen, Corne Uys and Ryan Shortland come into the back line, Jordi Pasqualin starts at scrum-half against his old club and three forwards – the props Euan Murray and Grant Shiells and the flanker Will Welch – get the nod up front.
There was a dose of bad news for Northampton yesterday when the Rugby Football Union announced that Phil Dowson had been cited for an alleged illegal tip-tackle on Saracens full-back Alex Goode. Dowson will appear before a tribunal chaired by the governing body's chief disciplinary officer, Judge Jeff Blackett, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London next Tuesday.
On the political front, the RFU council meets today to begin discussions on a root-and-branch overhaul of the way the governing body is run. The debate on moves to cut the size of the council by more than 50 per cent and shift the balance of power towards the executive wing is not expected to be concluded until next summer's annual meeting.Reuse content