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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019
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Japan star Mafi free to play in World Cup with assault trial pushed to January

An alleged assault on former Melbourne Rebels team-mate Lopeti Limani won’t keep the number 8 from facing Ireland on 28 September.

Mafi makes a carry as Japan defeated South Africa.
Mafi makes a carry as Japan defeated South Africa.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

JAPAN’S TONGAN-BORN back row Amanaki Mafi will have no distractions at next month’s Rugby World Cup after his a date in late January was set for his upcoming trial.

The 29-year-old, who was among the stars of Eddie Jones’ side as Japan shocked South Africa at the 2015 World Cup and featured in Japan’s Pacific Nations Cup success, is charged with assaulting his former Melbourne Rebels team-mate Lopeti Limani in Dunedin last summer.

Mafi has pleaded not guilty. Lopeti, in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald last year, claimed he was beaten and chased by Mafi and his brother before being bundled into a car, eventually escaping while the vehicle stopped at traffic lights.

“(Mafi) got offended because I said something offensive in front of his sister, so he started having a go at me, saying I was saying something rude,” Limani said.

 ”We had an argument, I was trying to tell him I was sorry and ‘I didn’t mean to make you angry or offend anyone’”.

The case will be heard by Dunedin District Court on 27 January. If convicted, Mafi would face a maximum of five years in prison.

World Cup hosts Japan open their campaign on home turf against Russia on 20 September before facing Pool A rivals Ireland in Shizuoka on 28 September.

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Sean Farrell

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