Ruck and Maul: Tindall gets goodbye to Gloucester but Fuimaono-Sapolu has gone


Mike Tindall will follow his debut for the Barbarians at Twickenham today with an appearance against an Ireland XV on Tuesday night at Gloucester, in what will be his farewell to Kingsholm after eight years with the host club.

There was to have been a similar wave goodbye by Tindall's fellow Gloucester departee Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, but it has not worked out like that for the Samoa centre who has been playing under a suspended sentence for his controversial remarks on Twitter.

In a bizarre round of accusation and retraction, Sapolu's plan to turn out for the Baa-Baas then play in the Pacific Nations Cup in Japan went west, or east. The Samoa Rugby Union (SRU), which is riven by arguments between professional players and an amateur hierarchy, announced they had dropped Sapolu under advice from the International Rugby Board. The IRB quickly said that was nonsense and the SRU retracted the statement but Sapolu is travelling instead to link up with his new club, West Red Sparks... in Japan.

Welsh to fight promotion decision

London Welsh are waiting for the detail of why the Rugby Football Union board and their independent auditors ruled that the club had failed to meet the minimum standards criteria (MSC) for promotion to the Aviva Premiership, but they are almost certain to appeal and may take legal action too.

The Exiles are odds on to win the Championship final in the second leg against Cornish Pirates on Wednesday; they have been supported by QCs offering to represent them for free, by blustering rants in national newspapers and by an early day motion tabled by the Harrow West MP, Gareth Thomas, in the Commons on Thursday.

Unlike one or two of those newspapers, Thomas has been seen at several matches this season at the pretty ground in Old Deer Park that the Exiles planned to forsake for the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, as revealed in these pages three weeks ago.

The Welsh submitted that plan after the 31 March deadline for the audit, but they say the RFU conceded the "deadline" was more a guideline. And in any case the 60 pages of MSC documentation leave ample opportunity for queries. One stipulation is a back-up stadium within 30 miles of the principal one: Welsh's at Brentford FC is 55 miles from the Kassam but they have come up with a rugby ground below Championship level that is closer. The Welsh say no Premiership club has needed a back-up ground in the past couple of seasons. They are holding fire on recruitment, with six or seven places in their squad vacant, until they know the calibre of player required: Premiership or Championship.

Players union is in good heart

The Rugby Players' Association (RPA) Awards dinner in London on Wednesday was to the eyes of guests unfamiliar with the sport a cavalcade of the unfortunate: tales of suicide and depression here, a former Premiership player in a wheelchair there. The RPA made the point that their benevolent fund needs supporting.

Thankfully there were plenty of upbeat notes too, not least when the room rose to Alex Bennett's efforts to get walking again after a neck injury, and the support of his wife, Antonia, in doing so. One danger faced by athletes in every sport is sudden cardiac failure, as suffered by the footballer Fabrice Muamba in March.

The RPA, RFU and Premiership Rugby are in the second year of cardiac screening all Premiership and academy players aged 16 to 35 and more than 800 have taken part. One was found to have a potentially life-threatening problem that has been treated to enable him to play on.

Meanwhile Alex Murphy, the RFU Council Member for Notts, Lincs & Derbyshire, is campaigning for a defibrillator to be installed at every rugby club.


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