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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 16:31 GMT
Rugby stars deny Pau assault
Gareth Thomas
Gareth Thomas played in the defeat in Pau
Three leading Welsh rugby players and a coach have appeared in a French court accused of assault and sexual assault in a bar brawl.

Prop Phil Booth allegedly made a sexual gesture towards 22-year-old Frenchwoman Celine Arnaud in a night spot near Pau, after Bridgend lost a match last October.

It is then alleged that team mates - forward Andy Moore and Wales international winger Gareth Thomas - became violent and attacked her fiancÚe Jean Marie Gonthier when he intervened.

The three players, and coach Richard Webster, all deny the charges.

Appearing on Monday, Mr Webster said he was nowhere near the nightclub when the assault allegedly occurred.

The court heard that Mr Gonthier was off work for 10 days after the incident, and that the couple are demanding 12,000 euros in compensation.

Andy Moore, Bridgend
Andy Moore now plays for the Cardiff Blues
The investigating judge called the players to court this week, so both sides would have a chance to question to each other.

It will then be decided if the players are to face trial and, if found guilty, could be given prison sentences and a large fine.

The brawl is alleged to have taken place at the El Barrio club in the town of Lescar following Pau's 18-9 win in a Parker Pen Cup match.

On Monday, Ms Arnaud said: "One of the rugby players grabbed me from behind and touched my rear and then moved his hands to my front and tried to fondle me.

"There is no question it was sexual assault."

Simon Thomas, the solicitor for the Bridgend players said he was hoping for a "swift end" to the case.

"This is our first chance to confront the alleged victims and to put questions to them and vice versa," he said.

The four appeared at the town's law courts in March and were released after each paying 1,500 euros in bail.

Gareth Thomas, who now plays for Celtic Warriors, has just returned from representing Wales in the Rugby World Cup.

Phil Booth also plays for the Celtic Warriors, while second row forward Andy Moore now represents Cardiff Blues.




SEE ALSO:
Ravens trio face French court
31 Mar 03  |  Wales
Bridgend admit bar 'incident'
25 Oct 02  |  European


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