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Mafi's assault trial date set

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Trial date set for Amanaki Mafi's assault case

Former Melbourne Rebels star Amanaki Mafi, who is accused of beating his teammate in Dunedin last July, will stand trial next year.

Mafi allegedly attacked fellow loose forward and childhood friend Lopeti Timani in South Dunedin after the Rebels’ season-ending loss to the Highlanders in the final round of the 2018 Super Rugby regular season.

The 29-year-old, who has played 24 tests for Japan, was charged with injuring with intent to injure on July 15 last year, which carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

Photos which revealed the extent of Timani’s injuries surfaced in Australian media shortly afterward, with the complainant and former Wallaby sporting two black eyes.

The case has been frequently called before the Dunedin District Court for a trial date to be confirmed, but next month’s Rugby World Cup in Japan has made proceedings difficult.

However, Judge Crosbie set a trial date of January 27 on Wednesday morning.

“It’s not rugby season and the World Cup’s over,” he said.

Defence counsel Anne Stevens QC said time was needed in order to overcome logistical issues to get both Timani and Mafi back to New Zealand for the trial.

“The complication is, they have to apply [for a visa] through their own countries, not our country,” she said.

Mafi, who now plays for the Tokyo-based Sunwolves, is on bail in Japan, and his appearance from Wednesday’s hearing was excused.

Timani, meanwhile, is currently playing for French club La Rochelle in the Top 14.

The duo were fined $15,000 by the Rebels for breaching team protocol and management in their altercation, which saw Timani repeatedly bashed and bundled into a car over a four-hour period after allegedly saying an offensive word in front of a female relative of Mafi’s.

Timani told the Sydney Morning Herald shortly after the incident that he thought he was “going to die”.

”Notwithstanding that both Amanaki Mafi and Lopeti Timani were finishing at the Rebels this season and heading overseas to continue their playing careers, it is only appropriate, given the seriousness of the incident, to sanction both players with a significant fine,” Melbourne Rebels CEO,Baden Stephenson said last year.

Mafi is currently training with Japan’s pre-World Cup squad, and is expected to be named in Jamie Joseph’s final 31-man squad for the World Cup.

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Trial date set for Amanaki Mafi's assault case