The ex-star of the Dragons condemns the selection of the accessory Francis

MYSTIFIED: Prop Tomas Francis and, inset, former Dragons and Wales striker Alix Popham

FORMER Wales flanker Alix Popham has called for Tomas Francis to be removed from tonight’s Six Nations game against France.

Doctors who contribute to independent lobbying group Progressive Rugby say Francis showed signs of a ‘Criterion 1’ concussion after making a tackle against England at Twickenham on February 26 and should not have received the assessment head injuries (HIA) which allowed him to resume the game.

But Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has selected the Ospreys stalwart to start against France at the Principality Stadium tonight (kick-off 8pm).

Newport-born Popham, 42, who won 33 Wales caps from 2003 to 2008, has been diagnosed with dementia praecox.

He is part of an ongoing lawsuit brought against rugby’s governing bodies over the past treatment of players and is shocked that Francis is set to play.

“I just can’t understand him playing,” Popham told i newspaper. “They are following the protocols but the protocols are not fit for their purpose. You have to call him and what happens is shocking.

“I was watching the game live, at home on TV, and noticed Tom fell out of the contact zone and went to the ground. Then on the replays, you see him get down on his knees and tripping and using the poles to get up for a few seconds.He was clearly concussed.

“It looked like he was staying and then he was called up for the HIA. But it was clearly a concussion, and the laws are that he’s not going for an HIA.

“It’s amazing. The eyes of the world are on them, tenfold, now. Yes, it’s possible to miss things, but there were a lot of misses. They didn’t even have the right periods of the HIA because Owen Watkin [the other Wales player in the same incident] was back in nine minutes, when he should be 12.”

A statement from the WRU said: “Tomas Francis and Josh Adams have been clinically managed by Wales medical staff following all required return to play protocols as specified in World Rugby regulations.

“Having experienced no adverse reactions and no complications in successfully completing each step of the return to play protocols, both are available for selection.”

But Popham is adamant that rugby should exercise much more caution.

“Rugby should be out the window, it’s about getting their brains healthy first,” he said. “With what I know now and the experts I’ve spoken to, it takes an average of 28 days for a brain to recover after a concussion. A knocked out boxer is not allowed to train for 30 days.

“No current rugby player will know the number of those who have been diagnosed, who I speak to, who are suicidal; the parents of a child who committed suicide after a concussion. It’s something serious.

“You can’t change the past: it happened, deal with those consequences at a future date. But you can protect what’s happening now. Exercise caution and take care of the girls, boys, men and women playing. You only get one brain.

Martin E. Berry