The rugby world has united in support of ex-Sale Sharks flanker and England international Hendre Fourie after it was revealed he faced deportation from Britain.
The 33-year-old – originally from South Africa – retired from rugby last week following a struggle with injuries, and the cancellation of his playing contract has invalidated his visa.
Despite living in the country for eight years and earning eight England caps Fourie – nicknamed ‘Shrek’ – could be expelled from Britain, causing the rugby community to take to Twitter in protest.
Using the hashtags ‘#SaveShrek’ and #FourieToStay’, several Sharks helped kick-start a twitter campaign – former teammate Mark Cueto tweeted: “#SaveShrek please RT [retweet] everyone!!”
Sale winger Cameron Shepherd hopes the campaign can reach national attention, tweeting: “#SaveShrek let’s get this trending in the UK #SaveShrek.”
Fourie has received support from all corners of the rugby world, with messages of support flooding in from Matt Giteau, Quade Cooper, Lewis Moody and Mike Tindall, amongst others.
Former England captain Moody tweeted: “can you rt [retweet] this #saveshrek. Hendre Fourie does NOT deserve to be deported.”
Gloucester fly-half and England under-20s captain Ryan Mills tweeted: “How can anyone who has represented our country then be deported for not being English!!! Unbelievable #SaveShrek #FourieToStay.”
Outraged rugby fans hoping to publicise Fourie’s situation have tagged the twitter accounts of the UK Home Office, the Government and the RFU in their protests.
Sharks fan Andrew Burton tweeted: “Fourie, deported, SCREW YOU @ukhomeoffice @Number10gov He’s played for ENGLAND #FourieToStay #SaveShrek! GET A GRIP CAMERON!”
The former Leeds player had hoped to stay in the country with his wife and 18-month-old son Hendro and train as a teacher, but is now resigned to leaving.
“It has been a red-tape nightmare and we just decided it was not worth all the hassle,” a frustrated Fourie told The Times.
“That’s the amazing thing – I am not able to claim any benefits in this country. I have always paid my taxes, have represented England, but I have to leave while you hear how they protect the rights of terrorists.
“I am not angry. We have a lot of family in South Africa, which will be good for Hendro but it is just frustrating the way things have worked out.”