French rugby federation investigates players over drinking

FILE - In this file photo dated Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, France's rugby coach Jacques Brunel watches his players prior to the Six Nations rugby union match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, France. Brunel had already excluded some players for disciplinary reasons, and Wednesday Feb. 14, 2018, French rugby federation opened an investigation that could lead to further sanctions for the players who allegedly went out drinking on Sunday after losing to hosts Scotland in the Six Nations tournament. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, FILE)

The French rugby federation has opened an investigation that could lead to further sanctions for the national team players who allegedly went out drinking on Sunday after losing to hosts Scotland in the Six Nations tournament

PARIS — The French rugby federation has opened an investigation that could lead to further sanctions for the national team players who allegedly went out drinking on Sunday after losing to hosts Scotland in the Six Nations tournament.

The federation said in a statement on Wednesday that the inquiry has been ordered by its president, Bernard Laporte.

France coach Jacques Brunel had already excluded the players from his Six Nations squad because they "did not respect their international player status and the duties resulting from it."

Insisting that their behavior "seriously damaged the image of France and its rugby team," the federation said Wednesday that the commission in charge of the investigation will submit a report that could open the door to "personalized sanctions." That could mean individual suspensions for players.

Teddy Thomas, who scored two tries in Sunday's 32-26 loss at Murrayfield and has been France's best player so far in the tournament, is among those excluded. The French federation did not name the players who were excluded by Brunel for disciplinary reasons, but five of the six players questioned by Scottish authorities — and cleared of wrongdoing following a report of sexual assault in Edinburgh early Monday — have been left out from the group preparing for France's next game against Italy. They are Louis Picamoles, Anthony Belleau, Remi Lamerat, Jonathan Danty and Felix Lambey.

Arthur Iturria and Sekou Macalou will also miss the Italy game.

After talking to players and potential witnesses at Edinburgh airport while the plane carrying the French back home was held during the investigation, Scotland police said no crime was committed.

The French team said the players were not allowed to go out drinking after the loss and should have stayed with their teammates.

France has started the Six Nations tournament with back-to-back defeats, losing its opening game to Ireland 15-13 in Paris thanks to an injury-time drop goal by Johnny Sexton. Against Scotland, Brunel's players wasted a 20-14 halftime lead.

France, which is on an eight-game winless streak, takes on Italy on Feb. 23 at the Stade Velodrome in the southern city of Marseille.

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