French rugby player Mathieu Bastareaud admitted lying about being assaulted in Wellington last weekend only after police suggested he "reconsider" his position, the head of the police inquiry says.
Bastareaud had told police he was attacked from behind by five men outside his hotel early on Sunday morning, leaving him with a serious eye injury requiring stitches.
He admitted overnight he had lied, and had actually hit his head on a table in his hotel room after drinking too much following his team's Saturday night loss to the All Blacks.
Inspector Pete Cowan told Radio New Zealand there had been no evidence to support Bastareaud's version of events, including CCTV footage from the Holiday Inn which showed him entering the hotel without injuries.
He said Wellington police yesterday asked the New Zealand Rugby Football Union to contact their French counterparts to discuss the incident further.
"We outlined clearly our findings which showed Mr Bastareaud's allegations were a pure fabrication and suggested that Mr Bastareaud reconsider his position."
It was because of this police action that Bastareaud admitted he had lied, Mr Cowan said.
"Mr Bastareaud hasn't come out overnight and apologised out of the goodness of his heart. This has been a strategy from us and the New Zealand Rugby Football Union have been strong supporters and assisted us in this."
Mr Cowan said Bastareaud had arrived back at the hotel at 5.22am on Sunday but didn't enter his room until 25 minutes later, and "what happened in that 25 minutes is obviously open to a lot of speculation".
Bastareaud had not laid an official complaint, but his fabricated story had wasted "an enormous amount of resources", Mr Cowan said.
Bastareaud's admission has outraged the New Zealand Rugby Union and Wellington's mayor.
The French Rugby Federation (Federation Francaise de Rugby FFR) this morning apologised for Bastareaud's actions and said it would be investigating.
"The French Rugby Federation is shocked that a player for the French XV had lied," it said in a statement.
"The nation of New Zealand, the world of rugby can legitimately feel wounded by the intial statements of the player which also harms the image of French rugby."
"Pierre Camou, president of the FFR, in the name of French rugby, wishes to present his excuses to the people of New Zealand and the New Zealand (Rugby) Federation. (Camou) has asked the disciplinary committee to investigate.
"To be an international, is to be responsible, exemplary in the way you represent your country and the (Rugby) Federation," Camou added.
Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast said there was "clearly collusion" by the French rugby team over player Bastareaud's false claim.
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