Sports minister threatens to withdraw France authorisation to play in Six Nations

FILE PHOTO: French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu attends the Global Sports Week event in Paris, France, February 2, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

PARIS (Reuters) - Sports minister `threatened to withdraw the French team’s authorisation to play in the Six Nations if the rugby federation (FFR) does not properly investigate the origin of a COVID-19 outbreak within the squad.

France’s game against Scotland was postponed after 11 French players, as well as staff, including head coach Fabien Galthie, tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week, prompting Maracineanu to ask for an investigation.

FFR president Bernard Laporte said that "to my knowledge, nobody’s at fault", but Maracineanu appeared to disagree.

"We asked an investigation from the FFR and from (president) Bernard Laporte, who himself came to see us before the tournament to present us the protocole and tell us that everything was going to go well, that the bubble was going to be strictly respected with controlled entries and exits," Maracineanu told L'Equipe TV.

"Now that we can see that this is not the case, I am waiting for him to come and explain to us what has happened.

"If nothing happens, if we don't look into this chain of contaminations and they don't explain to us how it could happen, then the authorisation that has been given (to play in the Six Nations) can be withdrawn."

France were scheduled to play against Scotland at the Stade de France on Sunday but the Six Nations announced on Thursday the match was postponed as it looks for another date.

Last month, France banned travel from and to non European Union countries, but the sports ministry gave the rugby team a special authorization to take part in the Six Nations.

France, who won their first two games, are set to travel to England on March 10.

"I don't think it was written in the protocole that the players could go out to eat waffles," added Maracineanu, following reports that French players went out in Rome when they played Italy three weeks ago.

"If they went out to eat waffles, they had to be re-tested when they re-entered the bubble. We want to know if this has been done because it is the conditions of re-entering and exiting the bubble that make it a bubble, by definition."

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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