France's national rugby union team coach Fabien Galthie attends a press conference during their tour of South America in Montevideo, Uruguay, 9 July 2024; Credit: Reuters/Andres Cuenca

(Reuters) - France rugby players Oscar Jegou and Hugo Auradou have been arrested in Argentina following an allegation of sexual assault during their tour of South America, French Rugby Federation (FFR) President Florian Grill said.

On Tuesday 9 July 2024, the players' lawyer said the men had rejected the allegation and said the sex was consensual.

"There is an ongoing investigation. Jean-Marc [Lhermet, FFR vice-president] and I have just flown in from Paris. If the facts are confirmed, they are incredibly serious," Grill said on Monday 8 July 2024 during a press conference in Argentina.

"Our thoughts must already be with the young woman. If, once again, this is true, it goes against everything that rugby does, builds and is," the FFR president added.

Lawyer Rafael Cuneo Libarona, who represents Jegou and Auradou, told Reuters he met the two players at the detention centre where they were being held and that "the version they are putting forward is diametrically opposed" to the allegations.

The two Frenchmen are due to be transferred on Wednesday 10 July 2024 from their current location to the city of Mendoza, where the prosecutor's office is handling the case, according to the lawyer.

"The two players are worried. They are 20 and 21 years old and the sex was consensual. I want to tell you that the sex was consensual. There was consent of the parties to have sex," Cuneo Libarona said, adding both men were committed to following the judicial process.

France beat Argentina 28-13 last weekend in Mendoza and are scheduled to play Uruguay in Montevideo on Wednesday before returning to Buenos Aires to face Argentina on Saturday 13 July 2024.

Openside flanker Jegou and lock Auradou started Saturday's match against the Pumas, both making their senior international debuts.

"If the investigation establishes the alleged facts, they constitute an unspeakable atrocity," French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera wrote in a post on X. "Our thoughts are with the victim. Thank you to Florian Grill for his fair words and his emotion, which we all share this morning. I remain in contact with the federation and our embassy there."

The arrests followed fullback Melvyn Jaminet being sent home from the tour and suspended on Sunday 7 July 2024 after a video on social media showed him making a racist comment.

Jaminet has since apologised for his comments in a post on Instagram.