Wellington (AFP) – French rugby captain Mathieu Bastareaud is back in Wellington, in the same hotel where he stayed in 2009, but is not prepared to revisit the controversial events of nearly a decade ago.
While the hotel has since changed its name, the row Bastareaud caused during his previous stay, when he falsely claimed to have been assaulted, has not been forgotten.
After a night out following France’s 14-10 loss to the All Blacks, the solid, hard-running centre said he was attacked by five men.
The then 20-year-old appeared the next morning with cuts and bruises, prompting international headlines saying the streets of New Zealand’s capital were not safe.
The New Zealand Prime Minister at the time, John Key, apologised on behalf of the nation and radio shows were clogged with callers expressing their shame.
But the story unravelled when video footage emerged of Bastareaud returning to the hotel unscathed and he later admitted the injuries were the result of a drunken fall in his hotel room.
Now older and wiser — and the captain to boot — Bastareaud was unwilling to relive that night when questioned Friday on the eve of the second Test.
“It was many years ago, for me it is in the past, not for you journalists, but my life has moved on and I’m in a good place,” he said.
“It was nine years ago. I’ve turned the page, do it as well. I’m here to talk about the match, not the hotel.”
And talk about the match he did, saying France were prepared to “fight, sacrifice, work” for the jersey.
“Last week we were unworthy to wear that jersey,” he said of the 52-11 hiding in the first Test.
“We must show pride. Yes, we play the best team in the world but if we don’t have the desire to challenge them, if we are just here to say ‘it’s the end of the season’, then it is not possible.”
“We are adults. We must show we are better than the way we played in the second half last week, where we defended like kids. We must show we are a team.
“There is a good spirit and we must show it on the field.”