France centre Mathieu Bastareaud has apologised after being cited for appearing to direct homophobic abuse at a Benetton player during Toulon's 36-0 European Champions Cup win.
The centre, who has 42 caps for his country, could miss the Six Nations after being charged with verbal abuse of a player, which carries a ban ranging from six weeks to a year. France kick off their campaign against Ireland on Feb. 3.
The incident happened in the last minute of the match, when Bastareaud appeared to call Italy forward Sebastian Negri a "f---ing f-----".
Bastareaud wrote on his Twitter account: "Good evening everybody, I want to apologise to my response to the insults of the Italian Player. I reacted badly in responding to his provocation, I am sincerely sorry for the people I hurt."
Toulon released a statement Monday which defended the club's captain from allegations of homophobia and suggested the comments had been made in the heat of the moment.
"RCT is convinced that Mathieu has made unfortunate comments following a state of nervousness as there may be in a rugby match [but] he is in no way homophobic," the statement on the club's website read.
"[He] always defended the diversity between individuals and shows it every day."
Announcing the decision to cite Bastareaud, Champions Cup organisers European Professional Club Rugby said: "EPCR has received a citing complaint against the RC Toulon player, Mathieu Bastareaud (No. 13), following his club's Champions Cup, Round 5 match against Benetton Rugby at Stade Felix Mayol.
"Bastareaud is alleged to have verbally abused a Benetton Rugby player in the 80th minute of the match in contravention of Law 9.12.
"Details of the independent Disciplinary Hearing and any other disciplinary matters arising from Round 5 of EPCR's competitions will be announced as soon as practicable."