The Tunisian Rugby Union (TRU) have hit back at claims of mis-treatment levelled at them by the Zimbabwean Rugby Union and given a different version of events that led up to the Zimbabwe team spending a very uncomfortable night on the streets on Monday evening.
According to the team they were forced to sleep on the streets after the accommodation provided by the TRU leading up to their Rugby World Cup qualifier with Tunisia this Saturday in Beja was totally unacceptable.
The incident became an international scandal causing deep embarrassment to the Tunisians after photos of the team sleeping on the street went viral on Tuesday.
But according to the TRU the Zimbabwe team, coached by former Springbok head coach Peter de Villiers, “started complaining as soon as they arrived at the Tunis Carthage airport.”
“The head of the delegation refused to pay the entry visa fees on Tunisian territories (60 dinars per person),” the TRU said in a statement on Wednesday, “explaining that he did not have the amount requested knowing that the Tunisian union had previously informed Rugby Africa by mail on all the procedures that go beyond the prerogatives of the union.
“This caused a long delay for the members of the delegation. It is important to note that these visa procedures are common between African countries.
“After a lunch offered by the Tunisian Union to its guests, an air-conditioned bus transfer was ensured for the members of the Zimbabwe delegation to the city of Béjà.
“They arrived at the Hotel Aladino around 20:00, checked in at reception and all the members of the delegation of Zimbabwe were entitled to a dinner, until then no problem was reported.
“Around 23:00, the head of the Zimbabwean delegation expressed reservations about the state of the bathroom in one of the rooms, the lack of a swimming pool and the low internet speed.
“So, he started talking about leaving the hotel on the pretext that it is not decent enough for his team.
"If it wasn’t for the coach buying us sandwiches and a few drinks from his own money‚ we’d be hungry right now." https://t.co/Rwp441z74G— Times LIVE (@TimesLIVE) July 3, 2018
“The quick intervention of the president and three members of the organizational committee was not enough to calm him down and convince him to spend the rest of the night at the hotel, ensuring that they would find solutions in the next morning with the possibility to change the hotel.
“Instead, he asked all the members of the delegation to take out their luggage, leave the hotel and spend the night outside on the ground.
“Unfortunately, local officials have tried to talk and negotiate with the head of delegation but remained unsuccessful.
“At 6:30 in the morning; and after the efforts and interventions of the organizational committee and members of the Tunisian Union, the Zimbabwe team was transferred to the Alrawabi Hotel in Nefza where they expressed their satisfaction with an apology to the chairman of the organizational committee.”
The statement finished by saying they express “deep regret for this unfortunate event and strongly deplores the anti-sports and unethical actions of the Zimbabwean delegation which do not reflect the strong ties of friendship between the two countries.
“Tunisia is, and will always be, a country of hospitality, always proven and that will make its pride.”
The match is part of the six nation African qualifiers for RWC 2019 in Japan. Six Nations remain in contention – Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tunisia, Morocco, Kenya and Uganda.
Namibia are firm favourites to progress automatically on current qualifying form, while the eventual runner-up will go into a qualification repechage later this year.
Pictures posted on social media showed Zimbabwe players on the pavements in Tunisia prior to Saturday’s match against their hosts in Beja.
The Zimbabwe party were left furious at a poor standard of hotel accommodation, while also claiming they had experienced a six-hour airport delay over visa issues after arriving in Tunisia.
Saturday’s game is part of Africa’s Rugby Gold Cup competition, with Rugby Africa responsible for the fixtures.
In a joint statement issued with the Tunisia Rugby Union, Rugby Africa said: “Rugby Africa and Tunisia Rugby Union would like to express their sincere apologies to the Sables (Zimbabwe) team and management for this unfortunate situation.
Zimbabwe National Rugby Team players slept in the street last night in Tunisia ahead of a @rugbyworldcup qualifier on Saturday against Tunisia.— Eric Njiru (@Erik_Njiru) July 3, 2018
Before that, they were held at the Airport for 6 hours as they could not raise €600 for Visa processing. pic.twitter.com/EoQBMPv2AI
“Rugby Africa has been made aware of the difficulties encountered by the Zimbabwean Rugby team with regards to their accommodation in Tunisia.
“We would like to reassure the Zimbabwean Ministry of Sports, Zimbabwe Rugby Union and all partners and fans that the situation was addressed immediately, and an acceptable solution has been found.
“Tunisia Rugby Union took the Sables management to visit another hotel, which was accepted.
“This (situation) does not reflect the standards of the Rugby Africa Gold Cup competition and we sincerely regret any prejudice caused.
“We pride ourselves in hosting Rugby Africa tournaments every year and make every effort to meet the best international standards.”
World Rugby said in a Twitter post that they had “received firm assurances from Rugby Africa that the issue has been quickly and effectively resolved.”
Rugby Africa president Abdelaziz Bouja added: “Our hosting agreements are signed by the six participating unions in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup and are very clear and strict in terms of accommodation standards.
“We rely on our unions to make sure the requirements are met, and it is unfortunate that it seemed not to be the case with this hotel in Tunisia.
“However, Tunisia Rugby Union has our trust, they are long term partners to Rugby Africa, hosting several matches and tournaments on our behalf every year.
“I know for a fact that hospitality matters to them and they have taken this issue very seriously and are rectifying it.”
Six African countries – Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tunisia, Morocco, Kenya and Uganda – remain in the qualifying picture for next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Namibia are firm favourites to progress automatically from current qualifying, while the eventual runner-up will go into a qualification repechage later this year.
Nagusa signs for the Falcons
Newcastle have signed Fiji international back-row forward Nemani Nagusa.
The Falcons said that Nagusa will link up with them later this summer, subject to him receiving a work permit.
The 30-year-old, who spent last season with French club Aurillac, has won 16 caps and also captained the Fiji sevens team.
Nagusa becomes Newcastle’s seventh new signing for next term after Logovi’i Mulipola, George McGuigan, Tom Arscott, Johnny Williams, Guy Graham and Connor Collett.
“Nemani is an exciting player with pace, power and handling ability,” Newcastle rugby director Dean Richards told the club’s official website.
“He is part of a strong Fiji side who are making big strides on the international scene. He has that X-factor about him and we look forward to his arrival once the work permit process has been completed.”
Dave Attwood WILL be playing his rugby for Bath next season https://t.co/e9j8hqjuGC— BathBytes (@BathBytes) June 27, 2018
Dave Attwood returns to Bath
Todd Blackadder has described England lock Dave Attwood’s return to Bath as “almost like a new signing”.
Attwood, who has won 24 caps, spent the final four months of last season on loan at French heavyweights Toulon.
There had been speculation surrounding a possible longer stay with the three-time European champions, but Bath have now confirmed that Attwood, 31, will return for pre-season training with the Premiership club.
“His return will be almost like a new signing for us,” Bath rugby director Blackadder told the club’s official website.
“We are really looking forward to welcoming Dave back for pre-season training.
“He is a huge asset to the squad, and we are really excited to have him back with us ready for the new season.
“There were discussions with Toulon, but we always wanted to bring him back to Bath.
“He showed during his short stint there his qualities as a player, but we also know what leadership qualities he brings on and off the field too.
“With the likes of Dave, Roko (Semesa Rokoduguni), Sam Underhill and Francois Louw all fit and raring to go, we go into the campaign in a great position.”
Attwood, who won the last of his England caps against South Africa in 2016, made nine appearances for Toulon.
Swinson out for six months
Scotland forward Tim Swinson has been ruled out for six months through injury
The lock has undergone surgery on a leg injury sustained on international duty, Glasgow Warriors have announced.
He suffered the injury during the Dark Blues’ 44-15 win over Argentina that completed their tour of the Americas and has returned home to undergo the operation.
The 37-time capped Glasgow forward could be out of action for the remainder of 2018, ruling him out of the first half of the Guinness PRO14 season and making him a major doubt for the 2019 NatWest 6 Nations.