Mathieu Bastareaud attack footage sought

18:35, Jul 21 2009
Mathieu Bastareaud
ATTACKED: Mathieu Bastareaud, dubbed the "French Nonu" by the All Blacks, was attacked at a taxi rank in central Wellington.

Police are monitoring the internet for video footage of an attack on French rugby player Mathieu Bastareaud at the weekend.

Did you witness the attack in central Wellington early yesterday? Email the Stuff newsroom at newstips@stuff.co.nz

The French rugby team farewelled a mentally and physically scarred Bastareaud today, but insists his bashing in Wellington won't provoke any anti-New Zealand sentiment.

Prime Minister John Key has expressed concern and emphasised it was an isolated incident.

Bastareaud suffered a suspected broken eye socket and needed four stitches to his face after a group of four or five men attacked him in central Wellington early yesterday.

The 20-year-old centre was so badly injured by the apparently unprovoked assault he had to return home and miss his team's test against the Wallabies this weekend.

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Police said they spoke with Bastareaud today, but his recollection of the attack was bleary.

Wellington area commander Inspector Pete Cowan said it was possible one of the attackers may have recorded the incident on a cellphone and police were monitoring the internet in case any footage surfaced.

Bastareaud was targeted as he went to get a taxi to take him back to the team's hotel just hours after France's 14-10 second test defeat by New Zealand.

Despite the French team not laying a complaint because Bastareaud could not identify his attackers, police were appealing to the public for any witnesses to the incident.

Meanwhile, Rugby World Cup organisers said they would take the attack into account when deciding what security measures would be put in place during the tournament in 2011.

Rugby New Zealand 2011 general manager for tournament services Nigel Cass told NZPA they were working with police on the development of high-level security framework for the World Cup tournament.

"That involves a number of levels of risk assessment and the number of levels of planning - both around the tournament itself, but around the individual teams," he said.

"Clearly the events over the weekend are just another factor that we'll need to take into account in terms of that high level planning."

He hoped New Zealand's safe reputation had not been badly tarnished since the attack on Bastareaud.

"We'll be working very hard both to ensure the teams and the fans that come here from offshore are safe, but also to encourage New Zealanders to take their responsibilities as hosts very seriously."

One of the great things about rugby was that teams played hard on the field, but shared a beer immediately afterwards, Mr Cass said.

New Zealand and touring fans needed to adopt that ethos, he said.

However, all teams would also be receiving protocols on how to stay safe during the tournament, Mr Cass said.

"It's about letting teams know it's a very safe country, but as with most safe countries, wandering about by yourself at 2am does have some risks and they do need to be aware of that and plan for it.

"We'll also be making sure there are very clear lines of communication between the teams, ourselves and the police so that if anything happens we can take action very quickly."

French assistant coach Emile Ntamack, who tasted a series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand as a player in 1994, made a point of stressing the incident hadn't soured their view of the country.

"I say again, I don't want to see a problem between the French and New Zealand people. It was just unlucky.

"The same thing can happen in France, in Paris, different places in the world."

Still, it was the second time French players were targeted during the two-test tour after they spoke of plastic bottles being thrown at them from the crowd as they celebrated victory in Dunedin.

Ntamack admitted the incidents were disappointing but felt they were isolated.

"They were very disappointed with the result of the game (in Dunedin) maybe. The reaction of certain fans was stupid. It was a shame there were very bad reactions.

"You could compare rugby with what happens in football, but we know in rugby there are stupid people too, we know that."

HOW IT UNFOLDED

According to the French team, Bastareaud, dubbed the "French Nonu" was knocked to the ground by five men, who recognised the rising rugby star as he returned to his Featherston St hotel.

"He is a bit shocked," French coach Marc Lievremont said last night. "And on top of that, he broke his nose last week in the [first test against the All Blacks]. It is a lot. He is only 20 years old. He is very strong, but at the same time ..."

The centre, who is 1.83 metres tall and weighs 111 kilograms, was returning to the Holiday Inn after his team's 14-10 loss to the All Blacks at Westpac Stadium.

French team manager Jo Maso said Bastareaud was treated by French team doctor Jean-Philippe Hager.

Maso said that just before they struck, the attackers yelled "something about 'F...ing French'.

"It was five on one," Maso said.

Lievremont said that Bastareaud was with the French squad when they went out for a drink but wanted to return to the hotel early.

"As he came out for a taxi he was attacked by some people ... hit on the face."

The French team spokesman, Lionel Rossigneux, told Radio New Zealand Bastareaud did not see his attackers.

"When we were talking with him and asking him if he could give a description, he said 'No, I didn't even know there were four or five, they just came quickly upon me and hit me. . .and I didn't have time to realise what happened'."

"We offered to have him stay until the end of the tour with us, but he preferred to go back to France and go back to his family," Mr Rossigneux said.

"It's a sad story I'm afraid."

NZPA with Fairfax Media