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French World Cup hopes plunged into crisis by ‘racist’ storm

President Macron warns Fabien Galthié after Bastien Chalureau’s inclusion as squad replacement leads to barrage of criticism for hosts

Yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron was unknowingly recorded warning head coach Fabien Galthié that his decision to call up the Bordeaux lock should not be allowed to derail this national event.

In 2020, the then Toulouse player was sentenced to six months in prison for “acts of violence with the circumstances that these were committed because of the race or ethnicity of the victim”.

He has appealed the judgment.

Former France captain Thierry Dusautoir has criticised Galthié’s decision to call up Chalureau after losing powerful second-row Paul Willemse to injury, while leading opposition politicians have condemned the selection.

On a routine visit to the French camp in which he smiled for the cameras and gave an inspirational speech on camera, Macron chose to raise the topic with Galthié during a six-minute conversation and the first few seconds were caught on the boom mic which was still recording.

“It is important that the Chalureau affair is handled well and does not get out of control in terms of the controversy,” France’s most powerful man told the coach. Galthié responded, saying “We went out yesterday” in reference to his press conference along with captain Antoine Dupont. “Bastien has to go out this evening. Let him be himself. If he has to cry, he has to cry. He has to say things.”

Last night, Chalureau made an emotional appearance in front of the media and said: “I am not a racist.”

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“What I want to say to you is that I confessed to my mistakes, that I paid my debts and I deny all claims about racist remarks. We discussed the matter with the French team staff: They knew from the start, it is an old case and known by a lot of people.

“I wanted to come out in public and address all my team-mates, my family… as it does not just affect me.”

Whether Chalureau’s tears will be enough to sate the critics remains to be seen, with the FFR president issuing an anti-racism message.

Dusautoir’s comments on Sunday gave a powerful insight into the unhappiness with his inclusion.

“I am a little embarrassed because I am a friend of the victim and I have a fairly strong opinion on this matter,” he said.

“I have always had a problem with him in the French team.

“Bastien Chalureau was selected in 2022. The facts precede his selection. I am surprised at the timing of this controversy, the facts were made public, but I was not present, there is a procedure. I am aware that I am not objective in this matter.”

The French sports minister says she cannot interfere in Chalureau’s selection as the case remains open.

The controversy threatens to undermine France’s preparations, with the squad also dealing with a quartet of major injuries as Romain Ntamack and Willemse miss out entirely and Jonathan Danty and Cyril Baille miss the tournament-opener.

New Zealand also have injury issues, with Jordie Barrett sitting out training. Prop Tyrel Lomax, second-row Brodie Retallick and Shannon Frizell all expected to miss the opening night.

Ireland, meanwhile, are reporting a clean bill of health for their opener against Romania although the game is expected to come too soon for Dan Sheehan.

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