Vahaamahina 'ashamed' of French club as concussion sparks retirement

·3-min read
Forced to quit: French lock Sebastien Vahaamahina
Forced to quit: French lock Sebastien Vahaamahina

Former France international Sebastien Vahaamahina said on Saturday he has been forced into retirement due to concussion and accused his Top 14 club Clermont of failing to accept responsibility for his condition.

The 31-year-old said he is suffering repeated episodes of chronic fatigue and headaches and expressed anger about the way he was laid off.

"I am ashamed for my club due to this dismissal for incapacity," the veteran lock forward said. "I can't face setting foot in the stadium. I told the management that they had ruined everything."

Vahaamahina joined Clermont from Perpignan in 2014 and made 154 appearances for the club.

But he has not played since December 2022, and has undergone two bouts of surgery while awaiting a financial settlement from the club.

"Five months have passed and they could have made me a decent and clear proposal to properly end my story with the club," he told sports daily L'Equipe.

"I have more and more symptoms after each concussion, with an impact on my life as a professional rugby player but also on my private life," said the 46-times capped player.

Two former Clermont players, Jamie Cudmore and Alexandre Lapandry, who have retired on incapacity grounds, have also sued the club for damages.

"The club continues to play for time and hope that I give up. I thought I deserved more respect. I am disappointed and hurt," added Vahaamahina.

He joins a growing list of players who have denounced the failings of the game's rulers over concussion such as former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman and ex-England hooker Steve Thompson.

They both spent time in the Top 14 and are part of a group of around 15 players who last November filed a legal action against French rugby chiefs for breach of their safety.

Around 200 players have accused World Rugby, as well as the English and Welsh federations, of not sufficiently protecting them against concussion.

- 'Loves to play rugby' -

Contacted by AFP, Clermont refused to comment on Vahaamahina's claims.

Later Saturday, following the 32-16 win over Stade Francais, Clermont coach Christophe Urios questioned the timing of the interview.

"Since my arrival at the end of December, there has been a lot of info like this. So you get used to it," he said.

"There is still a surprising side to all of this."

Clermont player Arthur Iturria sympathised with Vahaamahina.

"He is a competitor, a boy who loves to play rugby and it's complicated for us not to have him by our side," said the fellow second-rower.

"It's always tricky with these stories of concussion, and I see a player and a club who are in the dark, which is never fun."

In other Top 14 action on Saturday, La Rochelle, who will defend their Champions Cup title against Leinster in two weeks' time, clinched a 10th successive win by beating Toulon 23-8.

Despite yellow cards for Remi Bourdeau and Antoine Hastoy, La Rochelle ran in two tries through Will Skelton and Kyle Hatherell. Hastoy kicked 15 points.

South Africa star Cheslin Kolbe grabbed a 25th minute try for Toulon who also have continental honours to play for later this month when they face Glasgow in the Challenge Cup final.

Lyon stayed on course for the play-offs with a 41-31 win over Perpignan which increased the relegation fears of their opponents who are second bottom.

"It was a hold-up -- Perpignan deserved to win," admitted Lyon scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud.