French international Mathieu Bastareaud has revealed that he tried to commit suicide in 2009 after battling with depression and alcohol.
The startling revelations are contained in in his autobiography Head High: Confessions of an Enfant Terrible of Rugby, and sheds more light on the personal issues that have impacted on one of the most feared and imposing players in the game.
The 26-year-old made his international debut six years ago after eye-catching performances for Stade Francais, but made global headlines after an incident in New Zealand during the summer tour of 2009.
Bastareaud alleged that he was beaten up by a gang of men in Wellington after France’s second Test against the All Blacks. John Key, the New Zealand prime minister, publicly apologised to Bastareaud for the “assault”.
However it quickly emerged that Bastareaud had invented the accusations to cover up the injuries he sustained falling on to a bedside table when returning from a drunken night out.
The story became an embarrassment for the French authorities and the player was banned for three months while Francois Fillon, the French Prime Minster, apologised to his Kiwi counterpart over the fiasco.
The incident led a depressed Bastareaud to start drinking heavily, with Stade Francais later confirming they sought psychological help as the centre battled depression. Now the player has revealed those darkest moments where he contemplated taking his own life.
“I jumped up and walked to the kitchen,” he wrote. “I took a big knife and slit my veins. I immediately collapsed on the floor, fainting.
“My friends in the living room got it immediately. They saw the knife, the blood, and me lying on the floor, unconscious. They called emergency services immediately. I don’t know if I really wanted to die. I wanted to suffer. Suffer to punish myself.
The powerhouse centre said that reading the negative comments over his drink-fuelled incident in New Zealand had a deeply impactful effect on his mental state.
“When you hear everywhere all day long that you are just a loser, that you don’t deserve to be there ... You try to keep a cool attitude but you begin to believe what people say ... I smiled in public but, as soon as I came back home, I was alone.”
Bastareaud also reveals in his book that he suffered from bulimia in his childhood.