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Inglorious Bastareaud earns French forgiveness

Mathieu Bastareaud has been recalled to the France squad for the Six Nations Championship, little more than six months after causing a diplomatic outcry.

The Stade Francais centre sparked controversy when he claimed he was attacked after a night out in Wellington on France's tour to New Zealand last summer when, in fact, he sustained a suspected broken eye socket and needed four stitches in his cheek after a drunken fall in his hotel room.

Bastareaud, who returned to France following the incident, admitted his story was a lie concocted to hide the fact he had injured himself.

France Prime Minister Francois Fillon sent a written apology to New Zealand counterpart John Key over the incident. But the 21-year-old, who was handed a suspended three-month ban and ordered to coach rugby as part of a community service agreement, has now been included by Marc Lievremont in France's 30-man squad for the Six Nations opener with Scotland at Murrayfield on February 7.

Lievremont yesterday was determined to put the Bastareaud incident firmly in the past.

"The unfortunate Bastareaud episode of (last) summer is closed for us now," he said. "Mathieu Bastareaud's return is justified by his club performances and the fact he has started his community service work."

Lievremont added: "We have talked to him. I think that he will feel a bit of pressure fitting back into the CNR (National Centre of Rugby -- where the French team train). It will be up to us to help him."

Toulouse scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde was also recalled to the squad, which is missing Julien Dupuy.

Dupuy is serving a 24-week ban, reduced by one week on appeal, for eye-gouging Stephen Ferris.

Irish Independent