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Galthie breaks silence on Bastien Chalureau controversy

By Ian Cameron
France's lock Bastien Chalureau greets fans as he attends a welcoming ceremony for the team at the Parc du Bois-Preau in Rueil-Malamaison, near Paris, on September 2, 2023, ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2023 France. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Fabien Galthie has responded to the controversy around the selection of Montpellier’s Bastien Chalureau.

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The second row was called up to replace Paul Willemse who was pulled out of tournament with injury last week.

Chalureau was convicted of a racially motivated assault of two rugby players in 2020.

The conviction saw Toulouse tear up his contract but he since rebuilt his career in Montpellier.

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He has always denied the incident was racially motivated.

Left wing political groups in France have called for him to be dropped from the team. La France Insoumise Deputy Thomas Portes has led calls for forward to be deselected despite already representing France several times since the incident.

“The first thing is that Fabien Galthié should not have called him,” Portes said. “With my colleague François Piquemal, we are going to contact the Minister of Sports on Monday so that she can intervene and ask the French team not to select him.”

“We cannot accept today to have a rugby player in the French team who has been condemned for racist acts.”

Galthie addressed the issue at team’s on-arrival media conference.

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“We have said the same thing now for four years and we carry this mission with heart and commitment: we have to unite and share with French rugby and all French people.

“For four years, racism has had no place in our team, it has no place in rugby. Integrity is a fundamental value of our team and our sport. Bastien has informed us of this affair and firmly and formally denies the allegations. Proceedings are underway.”

“He’s been with us regularly for a year now, since last autumn. Before selecting a player, we try to get to know him better, meet him, share our way of living and playing rugby.”

Galthie says the controversy hasn’t effected the team: “The World Cup isn’t for wimps. You have to be strong.”

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“We’re very disappointed for Paul [Willemse], who has worked very hard in his preparation. Over the past four years, he has suffered recurrent muscular problems. We did everything we could to support him: the medical team, the trainers, the nutritionists.

“He was injured last Wednesday on an individual programme. We decided to replace him with Bastien Chalureau. He’s going to get better and join the list of players on standby because the tournament lasts seven weeks.

“We preferred to make this decision because we have three games to play in a fairly tight 20-day period. We feel we need four second rows.

“At the beginning of June, a group of 26 players came to work with us. Then we worked with 42. Every injury or withdrawal is difficult for the player concerned – obviously. [It’s hard] for the whole group, the staff, and the players. Unfortunately, we’ve had to prepare for that. It’s part of our journey.”

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