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Virimi Vakatawa banned from rugby in France due to heart condition

Virimi Vakatawa played in 31 Tests for France from 2016-2022. Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

France centre Virimi Vakatawa is not allowed to continue playing in France because of a heart condition, his Top 14 club Racing 92 said on Tuesday.

Vakatawa is suffering from a condition likely to put him at risk when playing high-intensity sports according to Racing team doctor Sylvain Blanchard, a member of the French League's medical commission, who said the problem was first detected in 2019.

"When he was being monitored, it became clear during the last examinations that his pathology had evolved, so much so that cardiological experts were called in to assess the situation," Blanchard said.

"The opinions were unanimous: we should not take the risk of letting him continue to practise high-intensity sports."

The 30-year-old Vakatawa, who has Fijian roots, made his France debut in 2016 and has played more than 30 Tests. He is only barred from playing in France, and it was unclear whether he would try to play abroad.

"It's hard for me to talk in front of everyone," Vakatawa told a news conference on Tuesday.

"I got up at 8 a.m. this morning and I knew I wouldn't be on the pitch. The hardest thing was to tell my teammates yesterday that I had to stop playing."

France coach Fabien Galthie, who also attended the news conference, was in tears.

"He was a key player in our adventure, in our history, he was great," Galthie said. "The last three matches were with us in Japan. He has been great again.

"We have to share this example with our children and tell them to enjoy each match as if it were the last."