France centre Virimi Vakatawa has been forced to retire from rugby union on medical grounds, his club side Racing 92 have announced. And with that, it also means that an immediate ban from playing in France has been imposed on Vakatawa, although no specific reasons have been declared by anyone at this stage.
Vakatawa, 30, had enjoyed a twelve-year career playing in France, but now the LNR have stepped in to enforce a permanent ban on medical grounds, which means his time with Parisian outfit Racing 92 is now at an end. The club’s official statement read: “Racing 92 has just been informed of the decision of the LNR’s medical committee to ban Virimi Vakatawa from continuing his professional career as a rugby player in France.”
The statement went on to read: “Particularly saddened by this terrible announcement, Racing 92 gives its full support to Virimi Vakatawa and immediately put in place all the arrangements to support its emblematic players as best as possible in these particularly difficult times.”
Vakatawa, who is New Zealand born with Fijian citizenship, represented France at international level and returned to action this summer to make it thirty-two international caps. After over a year out, Vakatawa played against Japan, marking his return to the Test stage. But now it appears as though his return has been somewhat shortlived after the announcement that his career is now at an end on medical grounds. But there is some confusion over what could happen next.
As the LNR medical committee got involved in intervening in banning Vakatawa on medical grounds from playing in France, there is some suggestion that it may not be the end of the line just yet. Depending on the injury which has prompted the decision to be taken, it could well be possible for Vakatawa to continue his career outside of France, and this wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.
Christopher Tolofua, for example, was banned from playing in France. However, after undergoing surgery, he was able to join and play for Saracens. Tolofua has a spinal issue, but the surgery allowed him to join Saracens, and he’s since returned to France to play for Toulon. So, it will all come down to the injury Vakatawa has, the severity and the outlook. And from there, it’s whether or not he wants to press ahead with his career elsewhere if it’s possible.
There is expected to be more news via a press conference and statement in the coming days over where the situation is and what could happen moving forward. But at present, Vakatawa’s career is sadly over, certainly in France and potentially elsewhere too. It’s a loss to the sport and to Racing 92, where he was one of the most integral players. He was also a regular at international level when fit and available too, which is a further blow to France.