Bastien Chalureau’s France call-up casts shadow over Rugby World Cup

The player who has dominated the headlines in the lead-up to France’s home World Cup campaign hasn’t been the captain and star man, Antoine Dupont, nor has it been prolific try scorer Damian Penaud. Instead it’s the replacement second-row Bastien Chalureau who is at the centre of attention as his legal issues were brought back to the surface after he replaced the injured Paul Willemse last week.
The Montpellier man was sentenced to six months in prison in 2020 for a racially motivated assault on two other rugby players in the streets of Toulouse, where he was playing at the time. Chalureau has admitted to the attack but denies the racist character of the incident and has appealed against that aspect of the ruling. The next hearing will be in November, after the end of the tournament.
The 31-year-old was first called up in 2022 and now has six caps with Les Bleus to his name. He first joined Toulouse at 17 before leaving for Perpignan five years later in 2014, after struggling with a long-term knee injury. He spent two years in Catalonia and then had another two-season stint at another Pro D2 outfit Nevers. He eventually returned to his formative club in 2019. He made a single appearance in the Top 14, having been sacked by the club shortly after the fight, and later joined Montpellier.
The former France captain Thierry Dusautoir has explained that he has “always had a problem” with Chalureau being a part of the national team setup while recognising he isn’t an impartial observer given one of the victims in question, Yannick Larguet, is a friend.
Members of parliament from the left-wing La France Insoumise have called for Chalureau’s exclusion from the squad. The two MPs in question, Thomas Portes and François Piquemal, have petitioned the sports minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra on the issue. She has reiterated that Chalureau is presumed innocent as long as legal proceedings are still in progress but that a France call-up does mean “representing republican values and fighting against all forms of violence and discrimination”.
The issue was side-stepped by both France’s head coach, Fabien Galthié, and Dupont in their opening press conferences on Sunday. Galthié, nevertheless, reiterated that “racism has no place in our team, it has no place in rugby”. The captain, meanwhile, skirted around the issue and insisted that the team was unaffected by the situation, adding: “Bastien has always had an exemplary attitude since he’s been with us.”
Emmanuel Macron visited the team before their first training session in Rueil-Malmaison, their basecamp in the west of Paris for the duration of the World Cup. While the president told the media that the decision on the call-up was ultimately down to the head coach and that it would be out of line for him to comment on a trial that was still ongoing, he did call on Chalureau to “speak with his heart, that he gives his truth”, adding: “In no case should it disturb preparations.”
An exchange between Macron and Galthié on the training ground was then filmed by RMC, in which the former scrum-half concurred that the player has to face the media to defuse the controversy. “Bastien’s going to speak. He has to be himself. If he has to cry, then he’ll cry.”

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