PARIS, October 28 – Stade Francais centre Mathieu Bastareaud on Tuesday described the false assault claim he made during France's summer tour of New Zealand in June as a "stupid mistake".The 21-year-old rising star said he had been beaten up on a night out in Wellington but later admitted that he had fallen over in his hotel room when drunk and struck his head on a piece of furniture.
"I’ve already said what happened and I’m not going to say it fifty times," he said in a press conference on Tuesday.
"I made a stupid mistake. I got back late and in a bad state, I fell over and there you go."
"When I hear people talking about whether this or that (France) player hit me, it’s wrong and I want us to stop with that," added Bastareaud, who was speaking about the incident in public for the first time.
"It annoys me because it could put certain players in a difficult situation even though they had nothing to do with it. It was my mistake, it’s me that has to live with it."
Bastareaud initially claimed that he had been set upon by unknown assailants in the street but was forced to retract his claims.
Wellington police found CCTV evidence that the player had entered the team hotel on the Sunday morning after France’s 14-10 defeat to the All Blacks uninjured and had gone to his room 25 minutes later.
Bastareaud finally admitted he had not been assaulted but received a cut and bruised face after a drunken fall in his room.
He said he had invented the assault story to avoid being sent home by the French team management and upsetting his family.
The French Rugby Federation (FFR) sentenced Bastareaud to carry out community service as a punishment and he went to hospital suffering from psychological problems, but has since resumed playing for Stade.
The affair provoked a furore in New Zealand, which is scheduled to host the next World Cup in 2011, and led French Prime Minister Francois Fillon to issue an apology to his New Zealand counterpart John Key.
"Again, I would like to apologise for all concerned: my federation, New Zealand, the staff, the players and especially everyone that was affected by my stupidity," Bastareaud said.
"I didn’t realise that it would blow up so much. I didn’t handle things as well as I could have done and for that I am sorry."
Bastareaud’s apology came the day before French coach Marc Lievremont was due to announce his squad for the forthcoming autumn internationals at home to South Africa, Samoa and New Zealand.
The Stade Francais man is highly unlikely to be selected, but his conciliatory words could represent the first tentative steps on the path to next spring’s Six Nations championship, which begins in February.
Speaking on October 19, Lievremont said he was awaiting an apology from Bastareaud.
"The ideal thing would be for him to talk about it, to say sorry to his team-mates, the staff, New Zealand, that he declares a kind of mea culpa and then it’s all settled," Lievremont said.
"I’m waiting for him to do that and I told him that."