Fabien Galthie defends selecting convicted racist in Rugby World Cup squad

David Skippers
Fabien Galthie France head coach v Italy Six Nations 2023 - PA.jpg

France head coach Fabien Galthie.

France head coach Fabien Galthie has defended his decision to add Montpellier second-row Bastien Chalureau as an injury replacement to his squad for the Rugby World Cup.

This, after a controversy broke out over Chalureau’s selection, with La France Insoumise (a left-wing populist political party in France) deputy Thomas Portes calling on Galthie to drop the player from the squad in a recent interview.

Convicted for racist attack in 2020

Chalureau’s call-up has been controversial due to his conviction for a racist attack in 2020.

The 31-year-old was not included in France’s initial 33-man squad for the Rugby World Cup but was called up following the injury withdrawal of Paul Willemse.

At the time of his conviction Chalureau was plying his trade at Toulouse, who acted swiftly by cancelling his contract. He has always denied the nature of the attack.

Galthie addressed Chalureau’s selection at a press conference on Sunday and revealed that the issue has not affected Les Bleus’ squad.

“For four years, racism has had no place in our team, it has no place in rugby,” he said. “Integrity is a fundamental value of our team and our sport. Bastien has informed us of this affair and firmly and formally denies the allegations. Proceedings are underway.

“He’s been with us regularly for a year now, since last autumn. Before selecting a player, we try to get to know him better, meet him, share our way of living and playing rugby.

“The World Cup isn’t for wimps. You have to be strong.

“We’re very disappointed for Paul [Willemse], who has worked very hard in his preparation. Over the past four years, he has suffered recurrent muscular problems. We did everything we could to support him: the medical team, the trainers, the nutritionists.

“He was injured last Wednesday on an individual programme. We decided to replace him with Bastien Chalureau. He’s going to get better and join the list of players on standby because the tournament lasts seven weeks.

Tight schedule of matches

“We preferred to make this decision because we have three games to play in a fairly tight 20-day period. We feel we need four second rows.

“At the beginning of June, a group of 26 players came to work with us. Then we worked with 42. Every injury or withdrawal is difficult for the player concerned – obviously. [It’s hard] for the whole group, the staff, and the players. Unfortunately, we’ve had to prepare for that. It’s part of our journey.”

READ MORE: Calls grow for convicted racist to be dropped from France’s World Cup squad