The Samoan international Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu has been banned from rugby for six months after misconduct charges against the midfielder were upheld at a hearing in Auckland.
The Independent Judicial Officer hearing the case, England's Judge Jeff Blackett, heard detailed evidence from the player and his representatives regarding alleged breaches of the Rugby World Cup 2011 Tournament Disciplinary Programme and the RWC/IRB Code of Conduct relating to comments made about referee Nigel Owens via the social media website Twitter.
Having considered all the evidence the Blackett determined that the misconduct charges laid by Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) against Sapolu for adverse comments against Owens were upheld.
All of the charges relating to breaches of the RWC/IRB Code of Conduct arising from such comments were also all upheld.
Sapolu has been banned from playing for six months, but the sanction will be suspended for a period of two years subject to the second five:
a) Giving a full and unconditional apology to Nigel Owens and unconditional retraction of any criticism of him
b) A minimum of 100 hours Rugby community work in Samoa in support of the IRB High Performance Programme within the next 12 months.
c) That the Player attends and passes a recognised Referee course within the next three months.
If Sapolu fails to comply with any of the above conditions or makes any public criticism which results in a proven misconduct offence, the six month playing suspension will be activated immediately.
Sapolu has 36 hours to appeal.