Vakatawa forced to quit Racing 92 and France team over heart condition worry

·2-min read

France star Virimi Vakatawa looks to have played the final rugby match of his career after it was revealed the 30-year-old has a heart condition that made the risk of competing "too great".

It emerged on Monday that Vakatawa had been told he would no longer be allowed to play rugby in France.

There was no initial announcement of what Vakatawa's issue was, but that was revealed at a press conference held by his club, Racing 92, on Tuesday.

An emotional Vakatawa was accompanied by France coach Fabien Galthie as he addressed the shock of learning his career had come to a sudden halt.

Vakatawa, a skilful operator at centre or on the wing, was set to be deployed by France in their Rugby World Cup campaign next year.

The 30-year-old, who was born in New Zealand and later lived in Fiji, moved to France as a teenager and played for Les Bleus in sevens before progressing to the 15-a-side national team. He has won 32 caps for France.

"Thank you for coming today, it's difficult for me to speak in front of everyone," said Vakatawa, who was also joined by Racing head coach Laurent Travers and president Jacky Lorenzetti.

"Rugby is my passion. The hardest moment was yesterday in front of my team-mates. It was very difficult to tell all of those I've spent time with, on and off the field.

"I arrived in France as a 17-year-old, since when I've only known one club, Racing 92. It's hard to leave your family, but I've never had regrets. I thank the president, the club and all my friends. I'll remain a Racing man for all my life."

Racing doctor Sylvain Blanchard explained the situation, saying: "A cardiac anomaly had been detected before the 2019 World Cup in Japan. This anomaly, which is not linked to rugby, has been monitored but it is an evolving pathology. The risk has become too great."

France boss Galthie loses a key figure from his squad and expressed sadness for Vakatawa.

He said: "Thanks to Racing 92 for inviting me to join Virimi. I am rather moved.

"When we do sports at the highest level we know that these situations can happen, but when we meet it full in the face it affects us enormously.

"Virimi has made many children dream. He has been a key player in our history, he was tremendous. I wanted to pay homage to you on behalf of the France team."