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Chabal issues apology

France back-row forward Sebastien Chabal has apologised for his critical comments about referees which have landed him a ban - but stopped short of retracting them.

The 33-year-old has been provisionally suspended by his club, Racing Metro, for comments in a newspaper interview ahead of the release of his autobiography in which he questioned the ability of referees, and also suggested they favour rivals Castres.

"I'm sorry that this caused controversy. I'm sorry if people were hurt. I apologise for it because I didn't want to attack anyone," he told French television station RTL.

"I'm sorry for what came out in an article in a certain newspaper this Sunday. In my book I talk about refereeing in a good-natured way. There's 10 pages or so and you can't just take words like that out of context."

Chabal has been summoned by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby to appear before a disciplinary hearing on May 12.

He may not have done himself any favours, though, as he spurned the opportunity to retract his controversial suggestion the officials favour Castres.

"I didn't say it - I suggested it," he said. "Everyone has their opinion.

"I think there's nothing wrong with talking about refereeing, nothing wrong in saying that.

"I think referees suffer from their non-professionalism. They don't have all the tools, all the weapons to work well.

"I underline that it is a difficult job, that I wouldn't do for all the gold in the world."

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