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Bastareaud ruled out of Irish clash after ban for verbal abuse

By Duncan Bech

France international centre Mathieu Bastareaud has received a three-week ban for verbally abusing an opponent.

Toulon star Bastareaud was cited following the European Champions Cup clash against Italian side Benetton last Sunday.

He seemed to direct homophobic abuse at Benetton forward Sebastian Negri, appearing to call him a "f***ing f*****".

Tournament organisers European Professional Club Rugby convened a disciplinary hearing in London yesterday and announced Bastareaud's suspension, which means he will miss France's NatWest Six Nations opener against Ireland in Paris on February 3. Bastareaud, 29, had been named in a 32-man squad by new Les Bleus coach Jacques Brunel for that game.

Bastareaud, who has won 42 caps, pleaded guilty to the offence, and he must also sit out Toulon's win-or-bust Champions Cup clash against the Scarlets on Saturday.

In a statement, EPCR said: "The committee upheld the citing complaint as it determined the nature of the verbal abuse warranted a red card.

"The offence was at the low end of World Rugby's sanctions, and six weeks was selected. As there were no aggravating factors, and taking into account the player's guilty plea, the committee reduced the sanction by 50 per cent before imposing a suspension of three weeks."

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