French rugby chief appears before ministers in Six Nations Covid-19 probe

French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte (L), French Junior Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu (C) and French Education, Youth and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer (R), address journalists following a technical meeting around the examination of the conclusions of the internal investigation into the numerous cases of Covid-19 contamination within France's Six Nations squad, on March 5, 2021 in Paris.
French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte (L), French Junior Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu (C) and French Education, Youth and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer (R), address journalists following a technical meeting around the examination of the conclusions of the internal investigation into the numerous cases of Covid-19 contamination within France's Six Nations squad, on March 5, 2021 in Paris. AFP - FRANCK FIFE

An internal investigation into the outbreak of Covid-19 within the France Six Nations squad has concluded that the health protocol was "well developed" and "respected" by the team, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Friday.

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"Nobody broke protocol,"  added the president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), Bernard Laporte, after an hour-long meeting with Blanquer, who has overall governmental responsibility for sport, and Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu.

Last weekend's Six Nations clash against Scotland was postponed after 16 members of the France squad, including head coach Fabien Galthie and 12 players, tested positive for coronavirus

Galthie has come under particular scrutiny after it emerged that, the day after France defeated Italy 50-10 in the opening round at the start of February, he had left the secure bubble to watch his son play a game.

Questions have also been raised about the sight of France players enjoying waffles in the streets of Rome ahead of the opening match of the tournament against Italy. 

While the investigation declined to point the finger of blame at anyone in particular, the three officials agreed on Friday that the protocol should be strengthened.

 "You can never be too vigilant," said Blanquer. "We can always better tighten the mesh."

Laporte had already given his full backing to Galthie, a former France captain, saying he had been wearing a mask and was outside, decreasing the risk of him infecting anyone.

However, he emphasised that the bubble would now be even tighter.

"Now, no more leaving the hotel," said Laporte. "It's belt and braces." 

After the postponement of the match against Scotland, which is likely to be rescheduled for the end of March, the France squad will gather at the national training centre in Marcoussis to prepare for the match against England at Twickenham on March 13.

(AFP)

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