France’s preparations for the Rugby World Cup were marred by calls to exclude striker Bastien Chaloreau from the squad after he was found guilty of a racially motivated attack on Sunday.
Challuru was initially left out of coach Fabian Galthe’s 33-man squad for the World Cup but was called up on Friday to replace the injured player. Montpellier His club mate Paul Willemsee.
However, the decision sparked controversy stemming from the year 2020 when Challuru was sentenced to six months suspended imprisonment by a court in Toulouse For assaulting former players.
He was found guilty of “acts of violence in the circumstances in which they were committed because of the victim’s race or ethnicity”.
Chaloreau, who was playing for Toulouse at the time, has always denied that there was any element of racism in the attack.
The 31-year-old, who has won six caps, has appealed against the conviction.
Yannick Largeet, one of the victims of the attack, told regional daily La Dipeche du Midi that Chaloreau shouted “racist insults” before “punching me in the jaw with all his might”.
Asked on Sunday evening whether the controversy was affecting the team’s World Cup preparations, France captain Antoine Dupont said Challuru “has always had an exemplary attitude, both on and off the field”.
“Racism has no place in the team,” Galthi insisted, but when asked if his team had been affected by the growing controversy, he told reporters, “The World Cup is not for the weak.”
“Bastien told us about it,” he added, adding that Challuru denied making any racist comments.
Some politicians demanded his removal from the team. Thomas Portes of the left-wing La France Insoumise party said his party would “contact the sports minister so that she can intervene and demand that the French team not be selected”.
However, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said the appeal process must be respected.
“Let’s not set ourselves up as plaintiffs instead of justice,” he told BFM TV on Sunday.
“Pending the court’s final decision, everyone must let justice do its work, respecting the presumption of innocence,” said French Sports Minister Amelie Audia-Castierra.
The minister was able to speak with Florian Grill, president of the French Rugby Federation, and with Rafael Ibáñez, general manager of the French national team, who assured her that there had been an exchange on the subject between Bastien Chalorot and the staff. “The French national team,” said a statement from the ministry sent to Agence France-Presse.
“The player upholds his version of the facts and continues to officially deny that he made the racist remarks, which is why he has made this appeal.”
The spokesman added that Odia-Casetera “wants to reaffirm that her selection for the French national team means representing the republican values of equality and fraternity, and thus acting accordingly, especially the fight against all forms of violence and discrimination.”
France begins its campaign in the FIFA World Cup finals in Paris on Friday, facing the three-time defending champion New Zealand.