Three France internationals have been left in hospital after they were attacked by “a dozen” armed men wielding machetes, knives and swords.
Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Pierre and Benjamin Kayser, who all play for French club Clermont Auvergne, were taken to hospital after the attack happened early on Sunday morning as they made their way back to their hotel in the southern town of Millau.
The club confirmed that the injuries are not life-threatening, but Pierre will need surgery on “deep cuts” to his hip.
The club issued a statement on their official website on Sunday night, which read: “While returning on foot to their hotel overnight from Saturday to Sunday, a group of Clermont players was attacked by a dozen individuals armed with machetes, knives and swords.
“A police investigation was opened immediately in Millau, where the Clermont players were staying before travelling to Falgos (a training camp) for a few days.
“Following the attack, Benjamin Kayser (arm injury), Aurelien Rougerie (arm injury) and Julien Pierre (hip injury) had to be hospitalised.
Video: Rugby players hospitalised after machete attack
“Their lives are not at risk but the Clermont lock (Pierre) needs to undergo surgery to treat deep cuts.”
Rougerie captains Top 14 side Clermont and earned 76 caps for France during a successful career that is winding down towards and end. The 33-year-old, who led Clermont to the 2010 Top 14 title, has not played for France since the 2012 Six Nations match against Wales.
29-year-old Kayser still features for France under current coach Philippe Saint-Andre and has amassed 24 times for his country, while Pierre, 33, has 27 international caps.
The club added that they were “shocked and outraged” by the late night attack and have 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.
“We will provide more information on the health of our players as soon as possible.”
Clermont are due to begin their Top 14 campaign on Saturday 16 August against Grenoble.
Recently retired World Cup winner Mike Tindall posted a tweet saying: “Crazy that some of the @ASMOfficiel boys attacked by machetes last night”.
Referee Nigel Owens added: “What is this crazy world coming too? Hope you all get well soon. Clermont stars in hospital after machete attack.”
IRB CEO Brett Gosper also tweeted on the matter, saying: “Shocked to hear of brutal attack on Clermont rugby stars.Bon courage les gars. @BenjaminKayser @JulienPierre4 #AurelienRougerie @ASMOfficiel.”