Rugby

Amanaki Lelei Mafi called up to Japan's Rugby World Cup camp amid assault proceedings

Kyodo

Amanaki Lelei Mafi, who is undergoing criminal proceedings for assault, has been called up to Japan’s extended Rugby World Cup training camp, the Japan Rugby Football Union announced Monday.

The No. 8, who was charged with intent to injure former Melbourne Rebels teammate Lopeti Timani in New Zealand, last July, will join the squad for practice in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture.

Mafi had been banned from team activities by his Top League side NTT Communications Shining Arcs after the incident with Timani following a Rebels match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

He was cleared for league play by the Shining Arcs in November since the proceedings in New Zealand, to which Mafi has pleaded not guilty, are expected to continue for some time following the postponement of the trial, according to the JRFU.

After complying with the punishment doled out by the Shining Arcs, such as temporary home confinement, it was judged Mafi had adequately reflected on his behavior and earned the call-up. The JRFU said they will revisit the decision once progress is made in the legal proceedings.

In November, Mafi released a letter of apology through the Shining Arcs explaining the incident and saying he intended to make efforts to regain the trust of fans and those involved.

The 29-year-old Tonga-born Hanazono University graduate made four appearances for Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, including in the team’s shock 34-32 win over South Africa.