French rugby president Laporte released after probe into suspected tax fraud

By Sports Desk January 24, 2023

French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte was released without charge on Tuesday after being detained as part of a tax fraud investigation.

Laporte, who has been in office since 2016, was summoned by tax authorities earlier in the day.

However, the 58-year-old's lawyer Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi confirmed to AFP that he was later released.

"It is a case in which he is implicated for having been associated with rugby friends a long time ago," Versini-Campinchi said.

"He has neither been accused of having defrauded nor of having received any money."

Laporte stepped back from his role as FFR president in December after being given a two-year suspended prison sentence and a €75,000 fine for corruption.

The former France coach also stepped down from his role as vice-chairman of World Rugby within hours of the conviction and was banned from rugby involvement for two years.

He denied any wrongdoing and is to appeal against his court punishments. Consequently, the FFR has not ousted Laporte permanently at this stage as he bids to clear his name.

Tuesday's development came as around 2,000 French rugby clubs voted on whether to accept the appointment of interim FFR president Patrick Buisson.

"It's perfectly scandalous the prosecutors have chosen the date of Patrick Buisson's election for the questioning and that the disclosure of this questioning was made on the same day," Versini-Campinchi added.

France are due to host the Rugby World Cup in September.

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    Steve Borthwick warned England must be prepared "go through some pain" after they were beaten by Scotland in his first game in charge at Twickenham on Saturday.

    There was no dream start for Borthwick after he replaced the sacked Eddie Jones as Red Rose head coach in December, as Scotland retained the Calcutta Cup with a 29-23 win.

    Duhan van der Merwe starred in an entertaining Six Nations clash, scoring a brilliant solo try in the first half and adding a second five minutes from time to give Gregor Townsend's side a bonus-point victory. 

    That is three consecutive wins for Scotland over England, who led by eight points early in the second half but were unable to see it out.

    Borthwick said: "This is part of the growth of the team.

    "We got ourselves in a position when we should have won the Test match in the second half. At 20-12 up, we shouldn't be letting that game get away from us. You have to go through some pain.

    "Really good teams would go on and win that.

    "We were playing against a Scotland team who have controlled this fixture in recent years. We need to make sure we limit chances and can shut them down."

    Borthwick says it is not all doom and gloom after a losing start to his reign.

    He added: "We saw some growth, particularly in the attacking side of the game. The game was quicker, but clearly we're disappointed in the result.

    "The team in the autumn, if they conceded a couple of scores early didn't come back from that. These guys did.

    "Unfortunately we let the opposition back in. We want to be a really successful team that wins Test matches. When you get to that level, you don't give the opposition the opportunities we did.

    "I am disappointed for the supporters, who I thought were incredible for us today. We'll make sure we come back here in eight days' time and are a better team."

  • Van der Merwe 'quite surprised' by dazzling try in historic Scotland Twickenham win Van der Merwe 'quite surprised' by dazzling try in historic Scotland Twickenham win

    Duhan van der Merwe acknowledged even he was surprised by his magical first try after playing the starring role in Scotland's history-making Six Nations win over England.

    The flying wing bolted in for two five-pointers in a 29-23 victory, giving Scotland back-to-back victories against England at Twickenham for the first time.

    There was a touch of Jonah Lomu's greatness about both tries from Van der Merwe, as he ran from his own half for a remarkable first score before his power saw him shake off England bodies to snatch the late match-winning effort.

    England came from behind to lead 13-12 at the interval, and then stretched that to 20-12 thanks to Max Malins' second try, but the Scots were not finished and Ben White brought them back into the game before Van der Merwe produced his second instalment of bulldozing heroics.

    Van der Merwe told ITV: "We came here wanting to start the campaign off on a high. After the first half, we knew we had more in us and came out for the second half with a bang and managed to get the win over England so we're obviously buzzing.

    "They scored quite early, and we said we just had to stay in the fight. We managed to get some points on the board and got some confidence from that."

    Looking at his first slice of brilliance, destined to be remembered for many a year, Van der Merwe said: "As a winger you don't get a lot of opportunities, so I needed to take that opportunity.

    "After I scored my first try, I was also quite surprised, so I will take that one any time of the day."

    When it was put to him that he was rampaging through white shirts, showing no mercy, Van der Merwe said: "At the end of the day, I always say that's my job."

    The South Africa-born player said Scotland must now build on their success, adding: "We spoke about getting our first win of the Six Nations and now we need to take some confidence from that and hopefully get our second win next week."

    Coach Gregor Townsend echoed that sentiment, calling for a strong performance against Wales at Murrayfield next time out.

    Townsend labelled Scotland's success "a brilliant win", with his team having now beaten England on the opening weekend of the championship for three successive years.

    He feels there is still better to come, though, saying: "Our ceiling is a lot higher than that.

    "We didn't get to play until well into the second half, and a lot of that was down to England's tactics and how they dominated possession, but most of it was down to us as well.

    "We'll be better for today, and we've got to make sure that next week we put in a better performance, because the last two or three Six Nations we've not done that in round two."

    England captain Owen Farrell said there were grounds for encouragement from what was Steve Borthwick's first game as head coach, after taking the reins from the sacked Eddie Jones in December.

    Farrell said: "I think we started 11 days ago and there's been massive improvement over the 11 days, and trying to get that out on the field today, I thought we did that in large parts.

    "There's some stuff we need to look at, and we need to get better at, but we'll have a look at that tomorrow and the day after. We'll make sure we get better from here.

    "We stuck in the fight very well; even though Scotland played to the end and scored the try at the end, it never felt like we went away. We'll have a good look at it and make sure we build on it."

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    New coach, same outcome. Scotland had England's measure again on the opening weekend of the Six Nations as Steve Borthwick's debut as Red Rose boss ended in a 29-23 defeat at Twickenham, where Duhan van der Merwe put on a masterclass.

    Borthwick, who took over from the sacked Eddie Jones in December, saw England suffer a fourth successive opening-weekend defeat in the championship, with the last three of those having come at the hands of Gregor Townsend's Scots.

    This was a rip-roaring battle from the early stages. Scotland snatched a 15th-minute lead after a smart lineout move set up the chance near the England line. Huw Jones was halted, but Scotland got the ball moving again, with Sione Tuipulotu playing a clever kick through for Jones to dot down.

    England banked their first try of the Borthwick era in the 24th minute when Max Malins dropped on a smart kick to the right corner by Marcus Smith.

    Then came a glorious moment of skill from Van der Merwe, who ran from inside his own half and through the heart of England's team, dancing past one white shirt after another before scoring to the left of the posts. Pure magic on the big stage.

    With Owen Farrell and Finn Russell missing consecutive conversions, Scotland's lead stood at 12-5, but that was trimmed when Malins dashed in for his second try, taking on a pass from Lewis Ludlam.

    Farrell squandered another eminently kickable conversion chance, but he could hardly miss when England were awarded a penalty in front of the posts before the break, making no mistake to give the hosts a 13-12 interval lead.

    Ellis Genge was England's close-range finisher after pressure was applied to the Scotland line early in the second half, with Farrell booting the extras; however, the Scots hit back in the 51st minute through Ben White, and Russell's kick made it a one-point game again.

    Kyle Steyn dropped a high pass from Stuart Hogg as the Scots chased what would have been their fourth try, before Farrell and Russell exchanged penalties.

    The Scots inside England's home roared as Van der Merwe gave Scotland the lead in the 74th minute, surging over in the left corner, ensuring his earlier heroics had not come in a losing cause. Russell added the extras, and this time England were done.

    Super Scots rock Twickenham

    Scotland have now won five of their last seven Six Nations openers, with Townsend's team losing only one of their last six Calcutta Cup games. They have beaten England three times in a row in the competition for the first time since a 1970-72 run of success. It turned into Van der Merwe's day, but team-mate Jones has now scored five tries in five Six Nations games against England. Only former England flyer Jason Robinson has managed more in this fixture, bagging six tries.

    Van der Merwe try one for the ages

    These teams met behind closed doors at Twickenham two years ago, with Scotland grabbing an 11-6 win and Van der Merwe scoring the game's only try. His sensational first try here would have been wasted on an empty stadium, with former Scotland captain John Barclay telling BBC Radio 5 Live: "That will go down as one of the best all-time individual tries."

    What's next?

    Scotland will look to build on this next week when they host a Wales side who were crushed by Ireland in their opener. England should net Borthwick a first win next weekend when Italy visit London, but the Azzurri beat Australia in November so cannot be underestimated.

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