29 Oct 2009

Bastareaud describes false assault claim as "stupid mistake"

5:47 pm on 29 October 2009

The Stade Francais and French centre Mathieu Bastareaud has described the false assault claim he made during France's June rugby tour of New Zealand as a "stupid mistake".

The 21-year-old rising star said he had been beaten up on a night out in Wellington but later admitted that he had fallen over in his hotel room when drunk and struck his head on a piece of furniture.

Bastareaud initially claimed that he had been set upon by unknown assailants in the street but was forced to retract his claims.

Wellington police found CCTV evidence that the player had entered the team hotel on the Sunday morning after France's 14-10 defeat to the All Blacks uninjured and had gone to his room 25 minutes later.

Bastareaud finally admitted he had not been assaulted but received a cut and bruised face after a drunken fall in his room.

He said he had invented the assault story to avoid being sent home by the French team management and upsetting his family.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) sentenced Bastareaud to carry out community service as a punishment and he went to hospital suffering from psychological problems, but has since resumed playing for Stade.

The affair provoked a furore in New Zealand, which is scheduled to host the next World Cup in 2011, and led French Prime Minister Francois Fillon to issue an apology to his New Zealand counterpart John Key.

Bastareaud's apology came the day before French coach Marc Lievremont was due to announce his squad for the upcoming home internationals against South Africa, Samoa and New Zealand.