Hendre Fourie may have resigned himself to an early return to his native South Africa – the England flanker retired on medical advice last week and no longer has a work visa – but the players' union is exploring every avenue, legal and political, in a bid to find grounds for an appeal that might win him the right to stay in the country. Fourie suffered what turned out to be a career-ending shoulder injury while on red-rose duty in the run-up to the 2011 World Cup, and his current plight has upset many of his fellow professionals.
The Rugby Players' Association has been working on his behalf in recent weeks and while there is no immediate prospect of the organisation finding a way through the thicket of residency legislation that was not framed with such an unusual case in mind, senior figures have not given up on the cause. There is, however, some urgency about the situation. As things stand, Fourie must leave England within 60 days.
Fourie, now 31, hails from the Eastern Cape town of Burgersdorp and qualified for England on residency grounds after joining Rotherham in 2005. One of the most effective ball-winning flankers in the English game, he won eight caps for his adopted country between 2010 and 2011. Yesterday, he said he was keen to start a teaching career here, but conceded that his case had turned into a "red-tape nightmare". He added: "I always paid my taxes and represented England, yet I have to leave – while you hear how they protect the rights of terrorists."
Meanwhile, one of Fourie's old England colleagues, the Leicester outside-half Toby Flood, appears before an RFU disciplinary tribunal tonight, charged with making an illegal tip-tackle on Andy Goode of Worcester at Sixways last Friday. Flood has no history of indiscipline and can therefore expect a relatively light punishment, even though tip-tackling is the sport's "crime of the moment" and is frowned upon by the International Rugby Board. A suspension of two weeks or less will come as a relief to the national coach Stuart Lancaster, who is expected to include Flood in his squad for next month's Six Nations when he names it tomorrow.
Wales, badly hit by injuries in most areas of their side and not given much chance of retaining the title they won in Grand Slam style last year, have lost the gifted Scarlets full-back Morgan Stoddart for good. Stoddart, just 28, suffered a double fracture of the leg during a World Cup warm-up match with England in August 2011 and has barely played since. Yesterday, he confirmed his retirement from the game.
"It's not easy to give up your rugby career but when it really is impossible to carry on you just have to accept it and get on with it," said Stoddart, who combined studies in biochemistry with his professional sporting commitments. "It's important to give yourself time to consider the future after such an intense life playing rugby, but I've already started thinking ahead."