France given green light to continue in Six Nations as government withdraws threat

Any threat to France’s continued participation in this year’s Guinness Six Nations has been extinguished by the French government.

French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte alongside French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu. Picture: Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images

A meeting on Friday morning between French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte, education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and sports minister Roxana Maracineanu resulted in the Championship favourites being given the green light to continue playing.

Maracineanu had threatened to withdraw France because of the coronavirus outbreak which saw 12 players and four staff, including head coach Fabien Galthie, test positive for Covid-19, forcing the postponement of the round three match against Scotland.

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It emerged that Galthie left the squad’s bubble on the opening weekend to watch his son play rugby, while members of the squad also went out to eat waffles when in Rome to play Italy.

However, France have been cleared of any wrongdoing with Blanquer describing the coronavirus safety measures in place as “well developed”, although he added that “you can never be too vigilant”.

Maracineanu has ordered extra precautions and called for stricter policing of the Covid protocols.

In response to the last point, Laporte has stated “now, no more leaving the hotel”.

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France face England at Twickenham next Saturday, then Wales at home the following weekend, with their showdown against Scotland in Paris set to be rearranged for March 26.

Raphael Ibanez, the former France international who is now the team manager, has been asked by the government ministers to oversee increased monitoring of compliance with the health rules.

After the initial threats by Maracineanu, there was a sense the French side had been given something of an easy ride at the government hearing.

Laporte continued to insist the players had done nothing wrong by going out to eat waffles in Rome on the day before the opening match against Italy.

“Although eating with the mask is complicated,” he said, before conceding: “From now it is forbidden, the protocol will go further, it is forbidden to leave the hotel.”

Blanquer concluded by saying: “We were very proud of the French team’s first matches in this Six Nations tournament, it started well and we want it to continue very well. We wish the best to the XV of France and that is why we are creating the conditions for this new start.”

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