French rugby is reeling after three test stars who play for glamour club Clermont were rushed to hospital after being attacked by thugs wielding machetes, knives and swords.
Benjamin Kayser, Julien Pierre and Aurélien Rougerie were set upon by up to 12 men in a street brawl after they had left a nightclub in the southern city of Millau. Clermont had been training in Millau ahead of the French club season.
The club said all three players were rushed to hospital, but none had life-threatening injuries.
Pierre, who with Rougerie was in the French team that lost the 2011 Rugby World Cup final to the All Blacks in Auckland, appeared to be the worst-affected, requiring surgery on ''deep cuts'' to his hip.
''As they walked back to their hotel overnight Saturday, a group of players was assaulted by a dozen people carrying weapons including machetes, sabres,'' the club said.
Local police reported the incident took place about 3am after the players went to a nightclub, where they may have argued with other revellers.
French newspapers suggested the players went to help a woman who was being harassed by some of the offenders on the dance floor.
"The whole club is both shocked and outraged by these incidents and is providing all the necessary support to the local authorities, who have opened an investigation into the attack to find and punish the perpetrators. In addition to helping the players involved, the club is also contemplating legal proceedings," the club's statement read.
The players were vastly experienced.
Rougerie, 33, is Clermont's captain and has 77 caps for France. He played at wing or centre. Kayser, 29, was a hooker and has played 24 times for France. Pierre, 33, has 27 appearances for his country at lock.
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