Outrage as France call up player convicted of racial assault to World Cup squad
French coach Fabien Galthie has also been accused of orchestrating a tearful press conference involving the player.
France have been thrust into the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons on the eve of their hosting of this autumn's Rugby World Cup.
Set to face off against the All Blacks in a mouthwatering tournament curtain raiser, the French have been ravaged by injuries. But it is one of their call-up replacements who has drawn the biggest response from fans and media alike.
With second-row Paul Willemse pulling out of the squad, Montpellier lock Bastien Chalureau was called up by head coach Fabien Galthie.
However, Chalureau was sentenced to six months in prison back in 2020 for "acts of violence with the circumstance that these were committed because of the race or ethnicity of the victim."
Despite having earned six caps since the incident occurred three years ago, Chalureau's inclusion rose to prominence on Sunday when former France captain Theirry Dusautoir was extremely critical of the selection on national television.
"I am a little embarrassed... I have had always had a problem with him in the French team," Dusautoir said.
France coach and President Macron conversation leaked:
A tearful Chalureau faced the media on Monday evening, in a press conference which saw him apologise for his previous actions but strenuously deny the motivations of race in the incident.
Les explications de Bastien Chalureau après la polémique, cet après-midi en conférence de presse. pic.twitter.com/l9kpsBlIy9
— CANAL+ Rugby (@CanalplusRugby) September 4, 2023
Prior to the press conference though, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the squad, where a conversation with head coach Fabien Galthie was accidentally picked up via an overhead microphone.
In it, Galthie can be heard telling the French President that he will have Chalureau make an emotional plea to the media to try and quell the backlash.
"Bastien has to go out this evening. Let him be himself. If he has to cry, he has to cry. He has to say things."
Additionally, former France coach Philippe Saint-Andre questioned the timing of the controversy, and admitted to it "annoying" him.
"Chalereau's first selection dates back to November, 2022. If there was a problem, why didn't we come at the time... Here we are trying to destabilise the French team five days from a World Cup."
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