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Barbarians player charged with sexual assault on day of game

Eddie Jones’s return to rugby coaching after quitting the Australia job has been overshadowed by sexual assault charges made against one of his Barbarians squad.

Fijian Api Ratuniyarawa appeared in court in Cardiff hours before the Jones-coached invitation squad were defeated by Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The revelations about the charges cast a cloud over the match which was staged to celebrate 50 years of Barbarians rugby since they defeated New Zealand in a celebrated 1973 fixture at Cardiff Arms Park. A post-match press conference with Barbarians’ coach Jones and captain Alun Wyn Jones was not held.

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Earlier, a spokesman for the team said: “As soon as we were contacted by South Wales Police we cooperated fully, assisting them with their enquiries. On their advice we can’t comment any further as the investigation is ongoing.”

The 37-year-old lock, who was called up as a late replacement in the Fijian World Cup squad, appeared at magistrates court accused of sexually assaulting three women at a Cardiff city centre club between 31 October and 1 November.

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Ratuniyarawa, who had been due to start on the replacements bench in the non-cap international before being withdrawn from the 23, has denied the charges and was subject to “stringent bail” before the case reaches Cardiff crown court on 4 December.

The three alleged incidents were said to have occurred at the Revolution bar in Cardiff city centre in the early hours of the morning while the former London Irish player Ratuniyarawa was on a night out with the Barbarians’ players. Prosecuting, Michael Evans, told the court Ratuniyarawa was accused of penetrating two of the women with his finger and touching the breast and body of a third woman.

Ratuniyarawa, who also played in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, has had a distinguished playing career in England with Irish and Northampton and in France with Agen.

Jones, who quit as Australia’s coach last week, then flew to Wales to oversee a Barbarians squad, featuring 10 of his former Wallabies, including eight who played during their World Cup debacle. The game ended in a 49-26 win for Wales.