French lock Bastien Chalureau on Monday rejected accusations he is a racist in an affair that has overshadowed hosts France's preparations for the Rugby World Cup.
"I am not a racist," the 31-year-old Montpellier player told a press conference.
Chalureau is appealing against a six-month prison sentence for a racially motivated attack in 2020.
"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," he said.
Chalureau said the French coaching staff knew about the incident.
"We discussed the matter with the French team staff: 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, my family... as it does not just affect me, it affects my family.
"That is why I wanted to appear before you today, 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," he added, in tears.
French President Emmanuel Macron had lunch with the squad on Monday and was caught on microphone telling head coach Fabien Galthie: "We don't want the controversy getting out of hand."
Earlier on Monday World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said there was no place for racism in the sport.
"There's absolutely no place for discrimination in rugby and certainly (no place) for racism," Gilpin told reporters at a pre-World Cup press conference.
"It's important to recognise that we have to respect the legal process," he added.
Chalureau, who made the first of his six Test appearances last November, was called into Galthie's squad last week as a replacement for injured Montpellier team-mate Paul Willemse.
He received support from his federation.
"He recognised the violent acts, but still denies the racist remarks," French Rugby Federation president Florian Grill said.
"He's appealed the decision and we have to allow the law to run its course, that's our position," he added.
However, Thierry Dusautoir, who skippered France to the 2011 World Cup final, said he had never held Chalureau in high regard.
Dusautoir is a close friend of one of the victims.
"I've always had a problem with him in being in the French national team," he told Canal Plus.
"I'm aware that I'm not objective in this," he added.
France, bidding to win the Webb-Ellis trophy for the first time, host New Zealand at the Stade de France in the World Cup's opening game on Friday.
Galthie names his side to face the three-time World Cup winners on Wednesday.