22 Jun 2009

French player's attack may have been filmed on phone

9:57 pm on 22 June 2009

Police investigating an assault on a French rugby player say one of the attackers may have recorded the incident on their mobile phone.

Mathieu Bastareaud was attacked by at least two men early on Sunday after the second Test between France and the All Blacks in Wellington.

Initial fears that the 20-year-old centre had fractured an eye socket were eased when scans in Sydney on Monday revealed no bones had been broken. However, he has a black eye and needed four stitches in his cheek.

Bastareaud was returning alone to his hotel early on Sunday after joining the team for drinks following their 14-10 loss. The junior member was a reserve for the Test and had not been drinking.

A spokesperson for the French team, Lionel Rossigneux, says Bastareaud decided not to report the assault because he could not recall anything about the attackers that would identify them. He has returned to France.

Inspector Peter Cowan told Checkpoint police spoke to Bastareaud while in transit from Sydney to Paris on Monday, but says the player does not remember much.

"He doesn't have very good recollection of the events He doesn't know how he got the two-centimetre cut to his eye and he believes that at one stage, he recalls someone videotaping this incident on their cellphone."

Mr Cowan says it is likely this would be a viewed as a "trophy video" by the attackers. Often these types of videos end up on the internet and police are monitoring the web in case this happens, he says.

Bastareaud told police he was attacked from behind by at least two men, one of whom was of Maori or Pacific Island descent, while the other was Pakeha.

Police hope to have the investigation wrapped up by the end of this week. Officers are trawling through large amounts of CCTV footage and are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the incident to contact police.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast says anyone who witnessed the attack should come forward and help police.

Attack bitterly disappointing - NZRU

The New Zealand Rugby Union says the assault is bitterly disappointing and will do no good for the country's reputation as a rugby host and as a place for tourists.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew says it would not be All Black protocol for a team member to walk home alone if playing in a foreign country.

Mr Tew met with police on Monday and says unfortunately the attack on Bastareaud highlights why touring players should always stick together. He says the All Blacks are always told to stay in a group.

Prime Minister John Key says the attack is regrettable but hopes it will not be blown out of proportion. He says from time to time there will be isolated incidents that reflect badly on New Zealand, but that is not usual.

Mr Key says he would hate to think the attack would tarnish New Zealand's reputation in the lead-up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Tighter security for World Cup

Rugby World Cup organisers say there will be tighter security for players during the 2011 tournament in New Zealand in view of the attack on Bastareaud .

Manager of tournament services for the Rugby World Cup, Nigel Cass, says staff will work with police to look at the threat assessment for each team participating in the tournament.

However, Mr Cass says it will be hard to control everything.