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Outcry as France replace injured SA-born lock Paul Willemse with convicted racist

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World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said on Monday there was no place for racism in the sport amid the furore over lock Bastien Chalureau’s inclusion in France’s squad for the World Cup.

French politicians have demanded the 31-year-old be removed from the French squad after he was handed a six-month prison sentence for a racially motivated attack in 2020.

Chalureau is appealing the decision and has denied any racial element in the incident.

Les Bleus host New Zealand at the Stade de France in the World Cup’s opening game on Friday.

“There’s absolutely no place for discrimination in rugby and certainly (no place) for racism,” Gilpin told reporters at a pre-tournament press conference.

“It’s important to recognise that we have to respect the legal process,” he added.

Chalureau, who made the first of his six Test appearances last November, was called into Fabien Galthie’s squad last week as a replacement for injured Montpellier team-mate Paul Willemse.

“He recognised the violent acts, but still denies the racist remarks,” French Rugby Federation president Florian Grill said.

“He’s appealed the decision and we have to allow the law to run its course, that’s our position,” he added.

On Sunday, Galthie said “a World Cup is not for weaklings” when asked about the impact of the growing controversy on his team.

Thomas Portes of the left-wing La France Insoumise (LFI) said his party would “contact the minister of sports so that she can intervene and ask the French team not to select him”.

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Former France captain Thierry Dusautoir, a close friend of one of the victims in the attack for which Chalureau was sentenced, said he had a firm opinion about the player.

“I’ve always had a problem with him in being in the French national team,” he told Canal Plus.

“I’m aware that I’m not objective in this,” he added.

Galthie names his side to face three-time World Cup winners New Zealand on Wednesday.

AFP

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