Mathieu Bastareaud lie: Graham Henry philosophical

BY MARC HINTON
Last updated 13:17 26/06/2009
Mathieu Bastareaud
MEA CULPA: Mathieu Bastareaud has admitted he lied about the attack and instead says he injured himself by falling over a table in his hotel room.

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All Blacks coach Graham Henry has refused to condemn French rugby player Mathieu Bastareaud for his deceitful claim he had been attacked in the streets of Wellington by a group of New Zealanders.

Henry was today philosophical about the whole unfortunate affair involving the Frenchman and his tall tale of woe following last weekend's second test in the capital.

The French centre claimed he was attacked by up to five men as he returned to his team's hotel, following a night out on the town after his side's loss to the All Blacks last weekend.

"It's just young guys making bad decisions isn't it," said Henry's at today's captain's's press conference at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.

"In this case they made a very bad decision. These things happen whether you're a Frenchman, an Australian or a New Zealander from time to time with young people. They make bad decisions, and they've copped it."

Henry also felt it was not up to the All Blacks to point any fingers, despite the fact that they too had been duped by Bastareaud's false accusations.

"We've been in similar situations in the past where our guys have made decisions. It's a difficult situation, and I feel for French rugby people. There is some relief that it wasn't New Zealanders involved. But let's be honest about this, we're not all squeaky clean all the time.

"We hope our young guys do make good decisions most of the time. But sometimes they don't."

Bastareaud told police he was attacked from behind, leaving him with a serious eye injury, but his recollection was patchy.

He returned to France after the incident to recover from his injuries.

He has now admitted he lied about the attack and instead says he injured himself by falling over a table in his hotel room. However, it seems he has only owned up following police pressure.

"I have to return to the events in New Zealand," said Bastareaud in a statement.

"I owe the truth to everybody.

"On Saturday evening, I returned to the hotel after having drunk too much.

"I fell in my bedroom and scarred my cheekbone on the table in the room.

"I was ashamed and panicked and I thought I would be sent packing by the team management.

"I recounted the original story because I thought it would be believed, but given the coverage it has subsequently received I thought it would be better to tell the truth," added Bastareaud.

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Bastareaud said that in particular he had not wanted to upset his family, who are deeply religious.

"I did not want my family to be ashamed," he said.

"I panicked and I dug myself deeper into a hole.

"I would like to apologise to the New Zealand Federation, to the city of Wellington, to the French players, the coaching staff, my team, my friends and all of those who were part of the story."

POLICE 'STRATEGY'

Bastareaud's admission was a direct result of the police investigation, the lead investigator said today.

"Mr Bastareaud hasn't come out overnight and apologised out of the goodness of his heart. This has been a strategy from us and the New Zealand Rugby Football Union have been strong supporters and assisted us in this," Wellington area commander Inspector Pete Cowan told Radio New Zealand.

"We outlined clearly our findings which showed Mr Bastareaud's allegations were a pure fabrication and suggested that Mr Bastareaud reconsider his position."

Mr Cowan said police investigations had revealed Bastareaud had returned to his hotel unharmed and had suffered the injury after his return.

He would not speculate on how the Frenchman had sustained his injuries.

"I'm sort of in a position where I'm not going to waste anymore time thinking about Mr Basteraud," he told RNZ.

"He has wasted an enormous amount of resources this week and I think from my perspective the matter is now closed."

He praised the police over the investigation.

"I've got to say that time again, people underestimate the investigative capability of the New Zealand CIB."

New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew thanked police for their investigation and said they had cleaned up an issue which had tarnished the reputation of Wellington and New Zealand.

"We're been close to the police since Monday when we first passed on the information we had and we've had senior guys working closely with them all week," he said.

He said they had passed on the police findings to French rugby officials overnight, leading to the admission.

Mr Tew said they would help the French investigation as much as possible.

Neither Mr Tew nor Mr Cowan would speculate on who in the French team knew what had really happened.

"In a way you have to feel for the young guy a little bit," Mr Tew said.

"There's obviously something [that's] happened … he's panicked to some degree, whether he's been assisted in covering it up and coming out with another story, look, I don't know, but in the end he now hasn't done himself any favours has he, and it will live with him for the rest of his life frankly."

Meanwhile, Max Guazzini, the owner of Stade Francais, has issued a statement on this morning's admission, saying the affair was a youthful misadventure.

"It was simply jolly japes by a youngster," said Guazzini in a statement.

"He had too much to drink, came back to his hotel and fell over the table in his room. He has now gone on holiday to the French West Indies."

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Bastareaud would now face disciplinary sanctions, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) said.

"Pierre Camou, president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), wishes to apologise to the people of New Zealand and to the New Zealand Federation," the FFR said in a statement.

"He (Camou) has asked the (FFR) disciplinary committee to open an inquiry."

"New Zealand and the rugby world must have legitimately felt hurt by the player's initial statements which also harm the image of French rugby," the FFR statement read.

"Being an international [player] means showing responsibility and exemplarity while representing your country and its federation," Camou said in the statement.

COLLUSION CLAIM

There was "clearly collusion" by the French rugby team over Bastareaud's false claim that he was attacked in the city last Sunday, Wellington's mayor says.

Kerry Prendergast told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report that the French team "passing it off as an inexperienced young [player] isn't good enough" and she believed other members of the team and its management were involved in the lie.

"There was clearly collusion, there were other players involved, the team doctor's involved, the coach because [Bastareaud] got sent back [to France] so quickly. This is wider than just one player. . .

"Other people knew. You can't just say 'this is one person, he should take the blame on his own'."

When asked how she knew there were other people involved, Ms Prendergast said she had gained that understanding from media reports.

She said the attack claim had the potential to damage Wellington's reputation.

- with NZPA, MICHAEL FOX, Stuff.co.nz, and Reuters

- Rugbyheaven

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