6N: Wales ‘gone extra mile’ to ensure Francis fit to play

March 9, 2022 GMT

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Tomas Francis’ selection against France in the Six Nations after a head injury was defended by his Wales coach Wayne Pivac on Wednesday.

Francis was picked to start at tighthead prop in the match in Cardiff on Friday, 13 days after he collided heads with teammate Owen Watkin in the first half of the game against England at Twickenham.

The prop staggered and appeared to need the goalpost to hold himself up. He passed an off-field head injury assessment (HIA) and played until the 56th minute.

Player welfare group Progressive Rugby wrote to the Welsh Rugby Union, World Rugby and the Six Nations last week saying the failure to remove Francis immediately and permanently from the game was “a clear and flagrant breach” of World Rugby’s own head injury laws.

Also, Welsh professor John Fairclough, a member of Progressive Rugby and a former WRU team doctor, questioned whether the HIA protocol was fit for purpose. He believed playing Francis against France “would be a grave mistake.”

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The Six Nations is reviewing what’s happened to Francis.

Pivac said they’ve “gone the extra mile” to ensure the prop is fit to play.

“We’ve got a very experienced medical team who we think are world-class. They’re experts in their field,” he said.

“In relation to Tomas Francis, and also Josh Adams actually, both of those players have been seen by our medical team after the game, the follow-up protocols and the return-to-play guidelines set by World Rugby have been followed closely.

“At each stage of those processes, they’ve come through fine.

“We’ve gone the extra mile with Tomas and got an independent concussion specialist involved. He’s got the history of the player and also had a look at the footage from the match. He’s been taken through World Rugby’s protocols.

“He’s supportive that the player is clear to be selected. On that basis, and in consultation with the player, we’ve decided to select Tomas Francis.”

Critics of Wales’ processes were entitled to comment, Pivac added, be he said, “We’re focused here on the players’ safety. The guidelines are stringent.”

The Wales coach also didn’t think Fairclough’s comments were relevant.

“No disrespect ... we’re going with experts in concussion. I know he was a leading surgeon in another area of the body.

“We always say that the players’ safety and well-being is at the forefront of these decisions. That’s why we go to the experts in this field to get all the information possible.”

As for the ongoing review, he said, “If we can improve things, we will do.”

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