• Kyodo

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Australian rugby legend George Smith was arrested by the Tokyo police on New Year’s Eve for allegedly assaulting a taxi driver after refusing to pay his fare, authorities said Wednesday.

According to the police, shortly after midnight on Dec. 31, the 37-year-old flanker, who played for Suntory Sungoliath in the most recent season of the Japanese Top League, fled without paying his ¥10,000 ($90) taxi fare and then injured the taxi driver who pursued him.

Smith, who punched the 58-year-old male driver in the face and chest, was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident which occurred in the city of Fuchu in western Tokyo, the police said. A passerby called police upon witnessing the incident.

Smith denied the allegations and told the police he was drunk and could not remember what happened.

“We issue our heartfelt apology to the victim and those involved. We will make sure the victim is dealt with sincerely,” the Suntory Holdings Ltd. public relations office said in a statement.

Smith, who has 111 caps for Australia, was the first player to win back-to-back MVP awards in the Top League, a feat he accomplished in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons.

He rejoined Suntory in May 2016 after playing for the Tokyo-based team between 2011 and 2014 when he was the highest-paid Australian rugby player in Japan. He also had stints in France and England.

This season, he had been sidelined with a back injury, and he did not play in Saturday’s title game against the Panasonic Wild Knights where Suntory claimed its second Top League championship.

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