Rugby World Cup: Convicted racist added to France team on eve of 'inclusive, respectful' tournament

Rugby World Cup hype has been overshadowed by a huge political storm involving a convicted racist, France's head coach and the country's president.

As World Rugby tries to promote inclusivity, tournament bosses are standing by their decision to allow a French player to take to the field, despite his criminal history of racially charged violence.

World Rugby bosses woke up excited this morning, ready to debut a shiny new video, featuring big promises and big guns.

Rugby World Cup: Convicted racist added to France team on eve of 'inclusive, respectful' tournament

"There's the Ruby Tui factor, obviously," said chief executive Alan Gilpin.

The Black Ferns star is front and centre of a new campaign selling the Rugby World Cup as an "inclusive, respectful tournament", but it's a tough sell - today of all days, with a storm erupting over the inclusion of a convicted racist in the French team.

Lock Bastien Chaluerau has been called up as an injury replacement -, despite  a six-month suspended prison sentence for a racially motivated attack on two former players in 2020.

"He has always denied any kind of racist statement, so we should leave justice playing its role and nothing else," aid France Rugby Federation president Florian Gill.

French politicians want him stripped of his World Cup cap, but as he is currently appealing his conviction, tournament bosses are grinning and bearing it.

"The presumption of innocence continues, because of the appeal that's taking place, so we have to respect that process, but there's absolutely no place for discrimination in our sport," said Gilpin.

French President Emmanuel Macron was involved by lunchtime, caught on camera alongside the coach, who is heard saying, "He must speak... if he has to cry, he has to cry".

Within hours, he did.

"I am not a racist," said Chaluerau, 31, with a lump in his throat. "Rugby is a union of many communities and that's the beauty of the sport."

Tournament organisers are adamant this World Cup will leave a positive "social legacy". Global participation in the game increased by 11 percent this year, but for that growth to continue, world Rugby knows the sport must be inclusive, safe and sustainable.

Ruby Tui has become a symbol of an "inclusive, respectful" World Cup.
Ruby Tui has become a symbol of an "inclusive, respectful" World Cup. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It doesn't matter what your background is, your religion, what colour you are, when you put that jersey on, everyone's the same," said World Rugby chair Bill Beaumont. "That's the great thing about the game we have."

France will meet New Zealand first this weekend and interest in Thursday's (NZ time) team naming is is now supercharged.

A convicted racist is far from the ideal candidate to line up for the blockbuster opener, let alone lifting the Web Ellis Trophy at the end of it all.

Join Newshub at 7am Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks v France World Cup opener