Sebastien Chabal was left out of France’s provisional World Cup squad for sporting rather than political reasons, according to national team boss Marc Lievremont.
The 33-year-old number eight has been omitted from the 32-man panel under consideration for the tournament in New Zealand in September, along with the Toulouse duo of Yannick Jauzion and Clement Poitrenaud.
Lievremont, who has drafted in uncapped Biarritz forward Raphael Lakafia and also Louis Picamoles of Toulouse in Chabal’s position, insists the veteran’s exclusion has nothing to do with his ongoing disciplinary case with the Ligue Nationale de Rugby.
Chabal could face sanctions from the LNR over comments made in an interview promoting his autobiography that referees in the French Top 14 were biased in favour of Castres and Biarritz, having already served a two-week suspension from his club Racing Metro for the remarks.
Lievremont said today: “I assured Sebastien that he had been judged in terms of sport and that the controversy had nothing to do with my choice.
“Last year I saw Raphael Lakafia progress and Louis Picamoles has great potential.
“The choice was not easy as Sebastien Chabal is important in the group. But I chose to focus on younger players to keep progressing.”
Jauzion and Poitrenaud were also excluded from Lievremont’s squad and all three must now be considering their international futures.
Chabal and Jauzion were two of the six players dropped by Lievremont following the shock defeat to Italy in the RBS 6 Nations earlier this year. The coach had strongly hinted then at his intention to overhaul the squad and accused his players of “cowardice” in the wake of the Rome upset.
Two more of the players dropped – Sylvain Marconnet and Aurelien Rougerie - have been included in the provisional World Cup squad, which must be trimmed to the final 30 by August 22.
Rougerie is one of three players selected despite carrying injuries that may yet rule them out of the global showpiece.
The Clermont Auvergne captain faces three to four months on the sidelines after suffering a serious ankle injury, while clubmate Thomas Domingo is another in doubt with a knee problem and Fabien Barcella (Achilles) is the other player on whom Lievremont is prepared to gamble.
Maxime Mermoz and Dimitri Szarzewski are also included as they continue to recover from long-standing shoulder and Achilles problems respectively.
France play Ireland home and away on successive weekends on August 13 and 20 to complete their World Cup preparations.