French rugby powerbrokers have confirmed no decision will be taken on the Florian Fritz concussion saga until the LNR Executive Committee meets in early September – some four months after the Toulouse centre was led bloodied and reeling from the Stade Ernest Wallon pitch.
In the wake of the incident during the club’s Top 14 barrage against Racing Mètro on May 9, the player’s ill-advised return to the game and the apparent misconduct of head coach Guy Novès are the subject of an investigation from a panel of doctors assembled by the LNR.
Repeated attempts from the IRB – who requested the French bodies launch the investigation – to press both the FFR and LNR for answers proved fruitless until Tuesday (yesterday), when a spokeswoman for the professional league administrators confirmed no action will be taken until after the September meeting.
Though this appears an extraordinary length of time to establish the facts and, where necessary, mete out punishment, the spokeswoman explained that the LNR has no specific legislation to follow after such an event, as it does, for instance, following an illegal tackle, adding that “a lot of people are still on holiday”.
“It’s not an investigation – we call this an assessment,” said the spokeswoman, who could not confirm whether Fritz underwent any form of concussion evaluation while off the field.
“The executive committee will meet on September 9th, and information from the assessment will be given during this meeting. The first people that will be informed of the outcome are the executive committee.”
“What happened is beyond any rules that we have – that’s why there is an assessment. It doesn’t correspond to anything in our rules. We have rules for concussion, but there are so many questions to answer in this case.”
The spokeswoman added that all domestic professional doctors must attend mandatory concussion refresher courses ahead of the new season, or risk being replaced by an independent counterpart at the cost of their club.
“Concussion is not something that is new to us – it has been an important matter for us for many years.”
“We held a press conference three years ago to announce our concussion protocols – only four journalists attended.”
“On July 10th, all the doctors from the Top 14 and Pro D2 were invited for mandatory further concussion training at the FFR headquarters to refresh their knowledge. Coaches and physiotherapists will also be given training. Not all doctors were able to attend, so there will be another session at the end of September.”
“If, for any reason, a club doctor does not attend either meeting, the LNR will appoint an independent doctor for the club’s home games and bill the club for the cost.”
“During the knockout stages of both competitions, where club doctors are under more pressure, we will automatically appoint independent doctors – they will be responsible.”
While acknowledging the propensity for players to attempt to hide or mask concussion symptoms to avoid a spell on the sidelines, the spokeswoman confirmed transparency will be encouraged among the French elite in line with the IRB’s commitment to driving cultural change.