Wales head coach Wayne Pivac insists 'correct protocols followed' after selecting Tomas Francis

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Wales head coach Wayne Pivac insists ‘the protocols have been followed’ after controversially selecting Tomas Francis for Six Nations clash with France despite fears he suffered a concussion during defeat by England

  • Tomas Francis required a head injury assessment in the defeat by England
  • The 29-year-old collided with Charlie Ewels at Twickenham and looked groggy
  • But after passing a HIA he was controversially cleared to return to action  

Wales launched a staunch defence of their decision to select Tomas Francis for Friday’s Six Nations clash with France as debate on rugby’s concussion protocols continues to rage.

Francis suffered a nasty head knock in Wales’ 23-19 defeat by England, but has been passed fit to play this weekend despite strong criticism from player welfare group Progressive Rugby.

The 29-year-old collided with England’s Charlie Ewels at Twickenham and despite showing clear signs of concussion, he initially stayed on the field before then being taken off for a head injury assessment (HIA). Francis passed his HIA and was subsequently cleared to return to the action.

Tomas Francis was made available for Wales' clash against France having passed safety protocols, following a nasty head injury suffered last time out against England

Tomas Francis was made available for Wales’ clash against France having passed safety protocols, following a nasty head injury suffered last time out against England 

Progressive Rugby slammed that decision as a ‘clear and flagrant breach’ of HIA protocol and then warned it would be a ‘grave mistake’ if Francis was selected to face France.

Former New Zealand prop Carl Hayman – who revealed last year he had been diagnosed with early onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after repeated blows to the head during his career – has added his voice to criticism of the Francis incident.

But Wayne Pivac, the Wales head coach, confirmed on Wednesday Francis had passed each stage of World Rugby’s return-to-play head injury protocols and had also been seen by an independent World Rugby concussion specialist – something which is not required under the rules.

‘We have got a very, very experienced medical team who we think are world class. They are experts in their field,’ said Pivac. ‘The return-to-play protocols are quite clearly set by World Rugby.

‘Those have been followed. We have gone the extra mile in terms of Tomas and got an independent concussion specialist involved. He has the history of the player, he has had a look at the footage of the match, and he has also been taken through the protocols that have been followed.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac (above) confirmed Francis is content with his selection

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac (above) confirmed Francis is content with his selection

‘He is supportive of the fact the player has been cleared to be selected and on that basis and in consultation with the player, we have decided to select Tomas.’ Like Francis, Wales centre Owen Watkin and wing Josh Adams have also been passed fit to face France after head knocks against England.

Progressive Rugby’s criticism of the Francis incident has been led by Professor John Fairclough who previously worked with the Wales set-up for two decades.

He said selecting Francis to face France so soon after a clear concussion would put him at ‘unnecessary risk of serious harm.’ Hayman added: ‘This isn’t really about how he (Francis) is feeling right now, it’s about the potential repercussions of playing years down the line.

‘Ultimately, it’s just one game of rugby but with the potential to affect the day-to-day health of someone for the rest of their life. At the end of the day, health has to come first.’

Pivac, whose team is hoping to ruin France’s Grand Slam dream on Friday, added: ‘People express their views and they are entitled to do that, but we have to focus on what we are dealing with on the ground here and that is the player’s safety. Getting an independent person in just goes to show how seriously we do take it and the player is part of the consultation process all the way.

WALES SQUAD 

Liam Williams; Alex Cuthbert, Owen Watkin, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar (capt), Tomos Williams; Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Seb Davies, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau Replacements: Dewi Lake, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Ross Moriarty, Jac Morgan, Kieran Hardy, Gareth Anscombe, Louis Rees-Zammit France: Melvyn Jaminet; Yoram Moefana, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villière; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (capt); Cyril Baille, Julian Marchand, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Anthony Jelonch, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Mohamed Haouas, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos, Matthis Lebel.

Referee: Matthew Carley (England) Kick-off: 8pm (Friday)

‘With no disrespect to the gentleman (Prof Fairclough) we are going with experts in concussion. The decision has been taken and it’s not been a light decision.’ Pivac also said he how was happy with the current state of rugby’s concussion protocols as a Six Nations investigation into the Francis incident at Twickenham remains ongoing.

Wales captain Dan Biggar said: ‘We’ve got a brilliant team and they’re not going to take unnecessary risks. Their first port of call is health and safety.

‘If Tomas wasn’t right to play, then he wouldn’t be involved. He’s passed everything and been looked at by independent people. We trust the process completely.’ As Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday, Francis is joined in the Wales side for France by the returning Josh Navidi, Seb Davies and Jonathan Davies. Gareth Thomas has also earned a front-row start.

Antoine Dupont is fit to captain France, but wing Damian Penaud has been ruled out of the Principality Stadium clash after testing positive for Covid-19.

Navidi has played just one game for Cardiff since returning from shoulder surgery but comes straight back into Pivac’s side with Taine Basham dropping out.

Up to 10,000 tickets remain on sale for Wales’ meeting with France and it is unlikely Pivac’s side will be backed by a full house at Principality Stadium.

The game’s Friday night kick-off, high ticket prices, a lack of late-night public transport out of Cardiff and ongoing Covid-19 concerns have all conspired to cause poor sales which could cost the Welsh Rugby Union hundreds of thousands in lost revenue. 

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