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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 20:05 GMT 21:05 UK
Player stripped off, says captain
Andy Moore, Richard Webster and Gareth Thomas
Andy Moore, Richard Webster and Gareth Thomas arrive at court
Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has told a court in south west France that ex-team mate Phil Booth stripped off in a bar and exposed himself to revellers.

Thomas, Andy Moore, coach Richard Webster and Booth deny affray at a Pau club after a Bridgend game in 2002.

Booth, who also denies sexual assault, failed to appear, citing business in Wales. The prosecutor in Pau asked for an arrest warrant against him.

Magistrates adjourned the case for judgment on 10 November.

The case was heard three years to the day after the alleged incident at the El Barrio club in Lescar.

I've been thrown down the steel staircase and was being kicked and punched at the bottom of the stairs by a group of drunken players
Jean-Michel Gonthier claims he was assaulted

Thomas, who captained Wales to the 2005 Grand Slam, now plays for French champions Toulouse.

The court heard that players went to the club after losing to Pau in a Parker Pen Cup clash and had been drinking heavily.

Magistrates were told Booth drunkenly exhibited himself while standing on the bar downstairs in the club before being pulled down by team mates.

Gareth Thomas
Gareth Thomas toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions

The court also criticised Booth for failing to turn up. Magistrates temporarily adjourned the case to decide whether to continue in his absence but decided it had already been delayed long enough.

His three former team-mates all gave evidence of Booth's sexual exhibitionism, but said they had done "nothing wrong".

Webster is forwards coach with the Cardiff Blues regional side, Booth, who is now retired, played for Llanelli last season, and Moore retired in 2004 due to a neck injury.

Booth is accused of sexual exhibitionism and sexual assault on Celine Arnaud, 25.

'Uncomfortable'

Thomas told the court Booth had a reputation for being "loud" and liked to be the centre of attention.

All three players in court told of the incident where Booth was naked in the bar but denied any knowledge of the alleged sexual assault.

Chief magistrate Richard Bricogne, outlining the case against the men, said Booth had appeared to pursue Miss Arnaud during the evening, but she and her boyfriend Jean-Michel Gonthier felt uncomfortable at Booth's exhibitionism and went upstairs to the club's disco.

'Repeatedly punched'

Mr Bricogne said the team mates had already been seen to be rowdy and had stolen food from passing waitresses as they carried food orders to customers.

But the players soon appeared in the disco themselves where Booth is said to have touched Miss Arnaud.

The magistrate said Booth later told police he had done a handstand in the disco and simply fallen on Mr Gonthier and then accidentally touched his girlfriend as he got up.

Mr Gonthier, 27, told the court he was so fearful of the heavily drunken Booth he decided to leave with his friends but was attacked before he could.

"By the time I rounded up my friends and we got our coats he was waiting outside by the stairs for me with other rugby players and I put my arms up to protect my face because I saw he was going to hit me.

"The next thing I know I've been thrown down the steel staircase and was being kicked and punched at the bottom of the stairs by a group of drunken players."

'Responsibility'

He said some of the players were so drunk and the scene was so confused they were fighting one another.

Miss Arnaud said she was so fearful for her boyfriend she intervened in the brawl and was repeatedly punched herself.

The court heard that she was so injured and traumatised by the attack she was off work for 15 days and her boyfriend was unable to work for 11 days.

Thomas said he saw Mr Gonthier strike Booth first, and he claimed not to have thrown a punch.

As captain of Bridgend he said he felt a responsibility to hold Mr Gonthier to ensure he was there when the police arrived.

He said he touched Mr Gonthier on the shoulder and pursued him when he went outside only to ensure he was present later on.

French public prosecutor Richard Pineau called for Booth to be jailed for 18 months for his part in the brawl and for an international arrest warrant.

Mr Pineau also said Booth should also be banned from visiting France for three years upon his arrest.

The prosecutor also acknowledged that Thomas, Webster and Moore had played only minor parts in the fight, and argued they should each be fined the equivalent of 6,500.




SEE ALSO:
Rugby stars deny Pau assault
24 Nov 03 |  Wales
Ravens trio face French court
31 Mar 03 |  Wales
Bridgend admit bar 'incident'
25 Oct 02 |  European



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