Rugby

Top rugby player Api Ratuniyarawa facing jail after admitting sexual offences

Api Ratuniyarawa (David Davies/PA)
Api Ratuniyarawa (David Davies/PA) Api Ratuniyarawa (David Davies/PA)

Top rugby player Api Ratuniyarawa is facing jail after admitting a series of sexual offences committed days before he was due to play for the Barbarians.

The 37-year-old Fiji international appeared before Cardiff Crown Court and pleaded guilty to two charges of assault by penetration and one charge of sexual assault.

The lock had been due to be on the bench for the Barbarians against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on November 4.

The offences were committed against three women and took place between October 31 and November 2 this year, the court heard.

Ratuniyarawa, of The Orchard, Kislingbury, Northamptonshire, denied two further charges of sexual assault relating to one of the three women.

Prosecutors said the pleas were acceptable to the Crown and invited the court to fix a date for sentencing.

The father-of-four, who has also played for Northampton Saints and in France, has been without a club since Premiership club London Irish went into receivership in the summer, the court heard.

He was hoping his appearance for the Barbarians invitational side would lead to winning a new playing contract but has since been forced to apply for benefits.

Ruth Smith, defending, asked for the defendant to be released on bail and for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.

“The defendant has been on conditional bail, and he is aware of the significance of his pleas and the type of sentence that flows from such pleas,” she said.

“He has been on very stringent conditions, and these are matters (that) arose out of primarily the consumption of alcohol.

“He is someone who has very fixed ties to the UK and has played rugby here for a significant number of years.

“His wife and four young children are resident here and have their own right to remain here and two of his children were born in the UK. He is not a flight risk.

“There are significant matters he needs to put in place for his family, not least to change the tenancy of their house over to his wife’s name as well as gather mitigation materials.

“The defendant is the sole breadwinner for the family. He was recently employed by London Irish who in fact unfortunately collapsed in May 2023 and was present in Cardiff to play in a Barbarians game.

“It was hoped a contract might flow from that, that of course because of these events, did not happen.

“Because of that, he has had to apply for benefits for his family. Again, those are not absolutely in place. He has various appointments in place in respect of securing financial stability for his family.”

Northampton Saints v Leinster Rugby – Heineken European Champions Cup – Pool One – Franklins Gardens
Northampton Saints v Leinster Rugby – Heineken European Champions Cup – Pool One – Franklins Gardens Api Ratuniyarawa had played for Northampton Saints and then London Irish until its collapse in May 2023 (Ashley Western/PA)

Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke, The Recorder of Cardiff, released Ratuniyarawa on conditional bail.

This includes residing at his home address, abiding by an overnight curfew, reporting daily to his local police station, surrendering his passport, not entering any licenced premises and only travelling to Wales for appointments.

“Now you have pleaded guilty to these offences the case will be adjourned until January 9 next year for sentence,” she said.

“I am going to order a pre-sentence report but you should read nothing into that, neither should you read anything into the fact that I am going to release you on conditional bail.”

Ratuniyarawa was also placed on the sexual offenders’ register.