Pivac defends decision to start Tomas Francis against France following head injury

Six Nations: Coach says Wales have ‘gone the extra mile’ in ensuring prop is fit to play

Wayne Pivac says that Wales have "gone the extra mile" in involving an independent concussion specialist surrounding detailed assessment of prop Tomas Francis.

Francis, who suffered a head injury midway through the first half of Wales's defeat against England at Twickenham 11 days ago, will start Friday's Guinness Six Nations appointment with France in Cardiff.

Television footage showed Francis staggering following a clash of heads with team-mate Owen Watkin. He was subsequently removed from the pitch for a head injury assessment that he passed before returning and playing until the 56th minute.

Player welfare lobby group Progressive Rugby wrote an open letter to World Rugby, the Welsh Rugby Union and Six Nations last week expressing its concern over an episode currently being reviewed by Six Nations Rugby.


Progressive Rugby said Francis should have been immediately and permanently removed following the collision under World Rugby’s HIA protocol.

And Prof John Fairclough, a leading surgeon who has previously worked with the Welsh Rugby Union, said it would be “a grave mistake” if Francis was selected to face France.

Wing Josh Adams, who also suffered a head knock against England, joins Francis in the starting XV.


After selecting a team showing four changes to face the unbeaten tournament leaders, Wales head coach Pivac said: “I just want to point out that we have got a very, very experienced medical team who we think are world-class.

“The follow-up protocols they go through, their return-to-play protocols are quite clearly set by World Rugby. Those have been followed.

“At each stage of that process, both players have come through fine. As a result, we have gone the extra mile in terms of Tomas Francis 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.

“He is supportive of the fact that the player has been cleared to be selected, and on that basis – and in consultation with the player – we have decided to select Tomas Francis. We have also decided to select Josh Adams.

“There is a review going on around what happened on matchday. I won’t comment on that until such time as that has been concluded.

“People from time to time express their views, and they are entitled to do that. But we have to stay focused on what we are dealing with on the ground here, and that is the players’ safety.

“What I would say is the experts that are dealing with it on the ground are dealing with it on a daily basis, so they are experts in concussion.”


Flanker Josh Navidi has been recalled to the Wales team in a reshaped backrow.

Navidi made his comeback appearance for Cardiff last week after five months out because of a shoulder injury, while he has not played Test rugby for almost a year.

But he will pack down alongside Taulupe Faletau at number eight, with Seb Davies handed blindside flanker duties.

Ospreys forward Gareth Thomas is preferred to Wyn Jones at loosehead prop, and one back division switch sees Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies replace Nick Tompkins, who was not considered after suffering a concussion during Saracens’ game against Leicester last Saturday.

France duo Romain Taofifenua and Damian Penaud have tested positive for Covid-19, forcing coach Fabien Galthié to make changes from the team who beat Scotland for Friday's Six Nations clash against Wales.

“We were notified this morning that they were positive so we had to make last-minute changes,” Galthié told a news conference on Wednesday.

With Penaud – who started the game against Scotland which France won 36-17 at Murrayfield – out, Yoram Moefana will switch to the right wing and Gabin Villière will be coming in on the left wing.

Galthié said more changes could be coming before kick-off at the Millennium Stadium as further tests will be conducted.

“We’re getting ready to make other changes,” he added.

WALES: 15-Liam Williams; 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Owen Watkin, 12-Jonathan Davies, 11-Josh Adams; 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Tomos Williams; 1-Gareth Thomas, 2-Ryan Elias, 3-Tomas Francis, 4-Will Rowlands, 5-Adam Beard, 6-Seb Davies, 7-Josh Navidi, 8-Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 16-Dewi Lake, 17-Wyn Jones, 18-Dillon Lewis, 19-Ross Moriarty, 20-Jac Morgan, 21-Kieran Hardy, 22-Gareth Anscombe, 23-Louis Rees-Zammit.

FRANCE: 15-Melvyn Jaminet, 14-Yoram Moefana, 13-Gael Fickou, 12-Jonathan Danty, 11-Gabin Villiere, 10-Romain Ntamack, 9-Antoine Dupont, 8-Gregory Alldritt, 7-Anthony Jelonch, 6-Francois Cros, 5-Paul Willemse, 4-Cameron Woki, 3-Uini Atonio, 2-Julien Marchand, 1-Cyril Baille

Replacements: 16-Peato Mauvaka, 17-Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18-Mohamed Haouas, 19-Thibaud Flament, 20-Dylan Cretin, 21-Maxime Lucu, 22-Thomas Ramos, 23-Matthis Lebel