France lock Bastien Chalureau has denied accusations he is racist following his controversial call-up for the Rugby World Cup.
The 31-year-old Montpellier player is appealing against a suspended six-month prison sentence for a racially-motivated attack in 2020.
Chalureau, who has six Test caps, was added to Les Bleus’ 33-man squad by head coach Fabien Galthie following the injury withdrawal of Paul Willemse.
« Ça ne touche pas que moi, ça touche ma famille et c’est pour ça que j’ai voulu parler devant vous, pour clarifier la situation »
💬 l’émotion de Bastien Chalureau pic.twitter.com/yEwCXo2TLO
— L'ÉQUIPE (@lequipe) September 4, 2023
“I am not a racist, I do not have those values,” he told a press conference on Monday.
“What I want to say to you is that I confessed to my mistakes, that I paid my debts and I deny all claims about racist remarks.”
While visiting the squad on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron was recorded telling head coach Galthie: “We don’t want the controversy getting out of hand.”
Chalureau, who at times was tearful during his press conference, said France’s coaching staff and management were fully aware of the assault, which led to him leaving former club Toulouse.
“We discussed the matter with the French team staff,” he said.
“They knew from the start, it is an old case and known by a lot of people.
“I wanted to come out in public and address all my team-mates, my family as it does not just affect me.
“I am not a racist, I bring people together. The beauty of rugby is it brings together people from all communities.”
💬 "Il doit dire les choses"
Fabien Galthié et Emmanuel Macron échangent sur la polémique autour de Bastien Chalureau pic.twitter.com/GMOGIQ4ZhO
— RMC Sport (@RMCsport) September 4, 2023
Chalureau made his international debut in November as a late replacement in a 30-26 win over reigning world champions South Africa in Marseille.
Former national team captain Thierry Dusautoir, a friend of one of the victims of the attack, said he has never supported the second-row forward playing for France.
“I’ve always had a problem with him being in the French national team,” Dusautoir told Canal Plus. “I’m aware that I’m not objective in this.”
France begin their home World Cup on Friday evening by hosting New Zealand in Paris.