France rugby coach excludes players after night out drinking

PARIS — After just two matches in charge and as many defeats, France rugby coach Jacques Brunel is already facing discipline problems within his team.

Brunel, who was appointed in December to end a dismal string of results for the Tricolors, decided on Tuesday to exclude from his Six Nations squad several players who went out drinking after last weekend's loss to Scotland.

The French rugby federation said in a statement that Brunel left out the players from the group gathered to prepare France's next game against Italy because "they did not respect their international player status and the duties resulting from it."

Teddy Thomas, who scored two tries in the 32-26 loss at Murrayfield and has been France's best player so far in tournament, is among those excluded.

The French federation did not say exactly how many players were excluded for disciplinary reasons, but five of the six players who have been questioned by Scottish authorities and cleared of wrongdoing following a report of sexual assault in downtown Edinburg early Monday have been left out. They include: Louis Picamoles, Anthony Belleau, Remi Lamerat, Jonathan Danty and Felix Lambey.

After talking to players and potential witnesses at Edinburg airport while the plane carrying the French back home was held during the quick 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. Details of their night out have yet to emerge but there were reports suggesting some were involved in a fight.

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

Thomas's removal from the squad is a big blow for France but Brunel's team is welcoming the return of center Mathieu Bastareaud. He had been dropped from the squad before the Six Nations started after receiving a three-week suspension for using anti-gay language during a match with his club, Toulon.

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

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France: Mathieu Babillot, Mathieu Bastareaud, Lionel Beauxis, Eddy Ben Arous, Hugo Bonneval, Yacouba Camara, Camille Chat, Henry Chavancy, Baptiste Couillou, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Benjamin Fall, Gael Fickou, Paul Gabrillagues, Kelian Galletier, Cedate Gomes Sa, Remy Grosso, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux, Maxime Machenaud, Geoffrey Palis, Adrien Pelissie, Jefferson Poirot, Dany Priso, Baptiste Serin, Rabah Slimani, Romain Taofifenua, Marco Toleigne, Francois Trinh Duc, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Virimi Vakatawa.

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