Two France rugby players await questioning in Argentina sex assault probe

Oscar Jegou throws the ball during a training session with the French team in Mendoza, Argentina (Andres Larrovere)
Oscar Jegou throws the ball during a training session with the French team in Mendoza, Argentina (Andres Larrovere)

Two players of the French national rugby team are waiting to be questioned by prosecutors in Argentina about claims that they sexually assaulted a woman in an encounter the pair claims was consensual.

Hugo Auradou, 20, and Oscar Jegou, 21, were detained in Buenos Aires Monday, two days after playing in France's 28-13 Test victory over Argentina in the city of Mendoza, where the assault allegedly took place.

French rugby and sports officials have expressed shock at the allegations while stressing the importance of the players having the opportunity to tell their side of the story.

The pair are to be transferred to Mendoza, likely overnight Tuesday, and appear before prosecutors who have said a medical examination had found injuries consistent with the alleged victim's account.

The men will also undergo forensic examination, sources close to the investigation told AFP.

According to local media reports, the alleged attack took place Saturday night at the Diplomatic Hotel in Mendoza, where France's players and staff were staying for the Test match.

Police sources, who asked not to be named, told AFP that according to testimony, the players met the woman at a bar after Saturday's match, and went with her to the hotel.

Prosecutors requested the immediate arrest of the players following the allegation, and their detention was announced late Monday.

Mendoza prosecutor Daniela Chaler told LV10 radio Tuesday there were "convincing elements" in the statement the woman made and that her injuries are compatible with her version of events, although they were not "necessarily exclusive" to sexual assault.

The player's lawyer, Rafael Cuneo Libarona, told AFP the players had admitted to having had sexual relations with the plaintiff but it had been "consensual sex, and at no time were there signs of violence or anything of that sort."

The French Rugby Federation (FFR), too, said the players have denied any coercion or violence.

"If the facts are true, they are incredibly serious," the federation's Florian Grill told reporters in Argentina, while stressing the investigation must be left to take its course.

- 'Trauma' -

France head coach Fabien Galthie said news of the accusation had been "a trauma" for the squad and delegation.

"It's a very difficult time," he told reporters Tuesday in Montevideo on the eve of a friendly match against Uruguay on the French team's South American tour.

Part of an FFR delegation remained behind in Argentina with the two accused players.

For her part, France's Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera wrote on X: "If the investigation establishes the alleged facts, they constitute an unspeakable atrocity. Our thoughts are with the victim."

Defense lawyer Cuneo Libarona said the men would be transferred to Mendoza by Wednesday, where they would be presented to investigators.

Martin Ahumada, a spokesman for the Mendoza prosecutor's office, told AFP that if the findings of the investigation "align with the victim's testimony, the related charge will be made."

If charged, the players could be held in detention pending trial, which would take place behind closed doors.

The pair risk a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

- Racism scandal -

Auradou and Jegou were in the France side that won last year's Under-20 World Cup in South Africa.

Lock forward Auradou, whose father David Auradou also played for France, enjoyed a breakthrough season this year, making 20 Top 14 appearances for Pau.

La Rochelle flanker Jegou, meanwhile, was suspended last autumn by the French Anti-Doping Agency following a positive test for cocaine. He explained he had taken the substance at a party.

Both clubs issued statements saying they would not comment on the sexual assault claims until "more precise information" was available and "initial conclusions" of the investigation were been reached.

The arrests come a day after a racism scandal led to France full-back Melvyn Jaminet being thrown out of the squad in Argentina.

Jaminet, 25, was removed after a video of him making racist comments emerged on social media.

Toulon's Jaminet played seven minutes and kicked a penalty in France's first Test win over the Pumas on Saturday.

The FFR condemned his video comments as "totally unacceptable and against the fundamental values of our sport".

Jaminet subsequently apologized for his remarks.

After the match in Uruguay, the French team is due to return to Buenos Aires for a second Test against Argentina on Saturday.