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."

Max Malins will make his first Test start and Virimi Vakatawa returns to the France side for Saturday's mouthwatering Six Nations showdown at Twickenham.

Malins gets the nod at full-back, with Elliot Daly dropping to the bench in three changes made to the side by Eddie Jones.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie is preferred to Jamie George, while Charlie Ewels takes Jonny Hill's place in the second row in an England side that will not be retaining their title after a defeat to Wales last time out.

Anthony Watson will win his 50th Test cap as the defending champions attempt to strike a blow to France's bid to claim the title with a victory in Le Crunch.

France return to action a month after they made it two wins out of two with a defeat of Ireland in Dublin, with their clash against Scotland postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the camp.

Head coach Fabien Galthie, who was among those to test positive for COVID-19, has named fit-again centre Vakatawa in midfield alongside Gael Fickou, with Arthur Vincent unavailable.

Teddy Thomas returns on the wing in place of the injured Gabin Villier, while Romain Taofifenua comes into the team after Bernard Le Roux was ruled out.

Dylan Cretin is preferred to Anthony Jelonch in the back row as the fit-again Romain Ntamack has to settle for a place on the bench when France go in search of a first win at Twickehham since 2007.

 

England: Max Malins, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Ollie Lawrence, Elliot Daly

 

France: Brice Dulin, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Romain Taofifenua, Paul Willemse, Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Dorian Aldegheri, Cyril Cazeaux, Cameron Woki, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Romain Ntamack.

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