Police raided the headquarters of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) yesterday as part of an investigation into alleged conflict of interest involving the federation’s president Bernard Laporte, a source close to the matter said.
The police search was first reported by the L‘Equipe newspaper. The source confirmed the operation and said Laporte’s home had also been searched.
Laporte, a former France coach and sports minister, denies allegations he put pressure on the rugby federation’s appeals board to reduce sanctions against Top 14 side Montpellier.
Montpellier are owned by Syrian-born scaffolding billionaire Mohad Altrad, with whom Laporte’s company BL Communication had a business relationship.
Calls to the rugby federation’s spokeswoman went unanswered, and attempts by Reuters to contact an FFR official who worked with Laporte on promoting a bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup were also unsuccessful.
Altrad’s eponymous business was a backer for that bid, which succeeded, and this month secured sponsorship rights for the French national rugby team’s shirt in a five-year €35m deal. There was no immediate reaction to the raids from Laporte.
Meanwhile, reports last night warned Wales fly-half Dan Biggar will miss his team’s first three Six Nations matches due to a shoulder injury.
Rhys Priestland is also ruled out of the majority of the tournament with a hamstring problem, leaving coach Warren Gatland without his two first-choice playmakers.
According to BBC, Biggar is likely miss the games against Scotland, England, and Ireland, with Rhys Patchell, Owen Williams or Gareth Anscombe expected to wear the number 10 shirt.
Experienced Wales back-row forwards Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau, and Dan Lydiate, and centre Jonathan Davies are also injured.
Wales start their Six Nations campaign against Scotland in Cardiff on February 3 before meeting defending champions England at Twickenham. Elsewhere, England’s Six Nations hopes have taken a dent with yet another injury blow, after prop Kyle Sinckler was forced to leave the squad’s training camp in Portugal.
Sinckler arrived in Vilamoura on Monday afternoon with a possible hamstring strain and has been replaced by Henry Thomas of Bath.
“Kyle will undergo further assessment and treatment with his club Harlequins this week,” a statement released by England said.
The setback leaves Exeter’s Harry Williams as the next in line to deputise for Dan Cole, the first choice tighthead who will start the NatWest 6 Nations opener against Italy on Sunday week.
It could be a major blow for Sinckler, who on Saturday was given the full backing of head coach Eddie Jones.
The 24-year-old emerged as a prop with a promising future during last year’s Lions tour but has since lost his way in a slump that reached its nadir when he was banned for seven weeks in October for gouging.
“Now is the test for him — how much he really wants it — otherwise he’s going to become a pantomime character,” Jones said.
“He has got to show he really wants to be a Test prop and we are going to back him a 100% and give him every opportunity because he’s a good kid. I’m going to back him to come through.”
England have lost a succession of props for at least a chunk of the Six Nations and have been most badly hit at loosehead, where they are missing Joe Marler, Matt Mullan, Ellis Genge, and Beno Obano.
They are now without 15 players for the start of the tournament after shoulder injury-victim Henry Slade was on Monday added to a list that already includes Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes, and Elliot Daly as absentees.
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