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Bastareaud hurt in Wellington attack

FRANCE turned its attention to Saturday's international against Australia in an effort to put an attack on center Mathieu Bastareaud behind it.

The 20-year-old Bastareaud told French management he had been attacked by up to five people as he returned to the team hotel early on Sunday following France's 10-14 loss to the All Blacks in Wellington.

Initial fears that the player had fractured an eye socket were eased when scans in Sydney yesterday revealed no bones had been broken but Bastareaud still has a black eye and required four stitches on his cheek. He returned to France later.

"There is bruising about the eye, but to be in a fight like that was a big fright for him," France assistant coach Emile Ntamack told reporters in Sydney yesterday.

"His injuries are not very important. He hasn't broken any bones, but in the mind...he is upset, yes."

The French team had not contacted Wellington police on Sunday after the attack but Bastareaud spoke to them yesterday.

Local media reported police had opened an investigation.

French team manager Jo Maso said Bastareaud had exchanged words with his attackers before the incident occurred.

"They (the attackers) abused him verbally and he responded to that," Maso said. "They then piled into him. There were four or five of them."

New Zealand rugby officials issued an apology to Bastareaud and the French team, while New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he hoped the attack would not put people off travelling to the country.

"From time to time you will get isolated incidents that reflect badly on either the public or on New Zealand potentially, I don't think we should blow this out of proportion," Key said at his weekly news conference in Wellington.

Ntamack, meanwhile, said their focus had now turned to the match against the Wallabies with his team expecting a tough match in Sydney against Robbie Deans's side.

France drew the test series in New Zealand after it won the first game in Dunedin 27-22.


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