CASTRES, FRANCE – Two men in their twenties have been placed “under formal examination” in connection with a late-night machete attack on three Top 14 rugby players in Millau, in the Tarn department of France, in the early hours of Sunday.
They were arrested, along with two other men, on Sunday evening, a matter of hours after French internationals and Clermont Auvergne clubmates Aurelien Rougerie, Benjamin Kayser and Julien Pierre were attacked by up to a dozen men armed with machetes, knives and clubs at the end of a night out.
Rougerie and Kayser suffered arm injuries, while Pierre needed surgery on a deep wound to his hip. All needed hospital treatment.
Sports newspaper L’Equipe reports that the incident happened as the trio walked back to the hotel where they were staying, after club captain Rougerie had intervened in a “violent” argument between a man and a woman at a nightclub.
A fifth man was arrested on Monday as investigations continued, and police have said that more arrests are likely in connection with the assault. Clermont Auvergne, too, has indicated that it will help police with their inquiries and may seek to bring charges of its own.
There is no direct equivalent of being placed under formal examination in either US or UK law, but it is close to being being charged or arraigned.
The pair, who are both known to police, have been accused of “aggravated and premeditated violence,” according to the prosecutor from Rodez. Charges of attempted murder were considered but have been dropped, though the pair could still face up to 10 years in prison sentence if they are found guilty.
All players have returned home from the training camp in Falgos, near Millau, to recover, and will not resume training for at least a month, the club said. They will all miss the opening match of the season, on August 16, against Grenoble.
Club captain Rougerie, 33, has won 76 international caps and led Clermont to the 2010 Top 14 title, but has not played for France since the 2012 Six Nations match against Wales.
Hooker Kayser, 29, still features for France under current coach Philippe Saint-Andre and has won 24 caps for his country, while Pierre, 33, has 27 international caps.
The club said it was – understandably – “shocked and outraged” by the attack and promised to help local authorities with “finding and punishing the perpetrators”.
“In addition to any complaints from the individual players involved, the club will also consider pursuing its own judicial proceedings.
Meanwhile, the Ligue National de Rugby (LNR) has announced that a formal hearing into Florian Fritz’s concussion, which marred the Top 14 play-off quarter-final between Toulouse and Racing Metro in May, will take place on September 9.
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