French rugby chief says coach Galthie breached virus bubble

PARIS (AP) – France head coach Fabien Galthie did not stay inside the team’s bubble before a COVID-19 outbreak in the French squad that has led to the postponement of a Six Nations game, according to the French rugby federation president.

Speaking to French television station France 3 on Sunday, Bernard Laporte confirmed that Galthie left the team bubble to watch his son play a rugby match after France thrashed Italy last month in its opening Six Nations match. Laporte stopped short of criticising Galthie, though.

“I don’t see where the problem could be. But then again, I’m not a doctor,” Laporte said, insisting that he continues to have confidence in his coach.

“For me, he has the right to leave from the moment he is masked. He was outside and masked,” Laporte said.

Galthie was among the members of the French squad who tested positive for coronavirus. The outbreak prompted the postponement of France’s match against Scotland last weekend. France had won its previous two matches. Investigations have been launched into the outbreak by the federation and the government.

French team coach Fabien Galthie gestures during the warm-up before the Six Nations rugby union match between Ireland and France Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PHOTO: AP

The initial accusations are focussed on Galthie after the L’Equipe newspaper first reported that he breached health protocols that were tightened so the tournament itself could go ahead. L’Equipe said Galthie broke the rules before the win against Ireland and reported that some players went out to eat in Rome before routing Italy 50-10.

Laporte said the players who went out to eat waffles in Rome had been tested again upon their return. He added that “obviously, zero risk does not exist”.

France Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu has ordered an internal investigation and its conclusions are expected later this week. The Six Nations was in jeopardy until her government gave its go-ahead to the tournament three weeks ago only after approving the French federation’s stricter sanitary controls.

A new date for the game between Scotland and France has yet to be announced.