Lock Bastien Chalureau has denied accusations he is a racist after being called up as injury cover in France’s World Cup squad.
The 31-year-old is appealing against a six-month prison sentence for a racially motivated attack in 2020.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Montpellier’s Chalureau said: “I am not a racist.”
He has been added to the French squad by head coach Fabien Galthie as cover for the injured Paul Willemse.
“What I want to say to you is that I confessed to my mistakes, that I paid my debts and I deny all claims about racist remarks,” added Chalureau, 31.
Capped six times by his country, he said the Les Bleus coaching staff were aware of the incident.
“We discussed the matter with the French team staff,” he added. “They knew from the start. It is an old case and known by a lot of people.
“I wanted to come out in public and address all my team-mates and my family as it does not just affect me, it affects my family.
“That is why I wanted to appear before you, to clarify the situation.
“I am not a racist, I bring people together. The beauty of rugby is it brings together people from all communities.”
Chalureau was sentenced for assaulting two other players, Yannick Larguet and Nassim Arif, after a night out in 2020, with the court in Toulouse stating the attack was carried out because of the race of the victims.
The lock admitted the assault but denied it was racially motivated. He was released by Toulouse and subsequently joined current club Montpellier.
While having lunch with the squad on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron was heard on microphone telling head coach Galthie: “We don’t want the controversy getting out of hand.”
Chalureau’s comments came after World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin also spoke out on the matter earlier on Monday.
“There’s absolutely no place for discrimination in rugby and certainly [not] for racism,” he said.
“It’s important to recognise that we have to respect the legal process.”
Chalureau made his Test debut last November, but former France captain Thierry Dusautoir, says he has never been in support of the lock playing for the national team.
“I’ve always had a problem with him in being in the French national team,” Dusautoir, who led France to the 2011 World Cup final and is a friend of one of the victims, told Canal Plus.
“I’m aware that I’m not objective in this.”
France host New Zealand in the opening game of the 2023 World Cup on Friday 8 September as they look to win the tournament for the first time in their history.