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Concussed rugby union player stuns fans

French club Tolouse is under fire after allowing centre Florian Fritz to keep playing after being knocked out in a tackle.

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French rugby has attracted worldwide condemnation after a player in the country's Top 14 competition was allowed to return to the game after suffering a severe head knock. 

Toulouse centre Florian Fritz was left bloodied and visibly dazed after coming into contact with an opposition player's knee in the 19th minute of his side's 21-16 loss to Racing Metro in Toulouse on Friday.

Video footage showed Fritz being helped off the field and trying to wave off help from match officials before collapsing to the ground on the sideline and taken into the dressing rooms for medical attention. 

Battered: Florian Fritz leaves the field during the quarter-final match between Toulouse and Racing Metro.

Battered: Florian Fritz leaves the field during the quarter-final match between Toulouse and Racing Metro. Photo: AFP

After spending about 17 minutes off the field, separate footage showed him being ushered back out by Toulouse manager Guy Noves to finish the final few minutes of the half. 

Fritz did not return after the break and was replaced with French Test player Gael Fickou.

"I had a small KO [knock out], I don't remember everything," Fritz told French broadcaster Canal+. "It was better to leave a fresh guy like Gaël Fickou [replace him]."

Fritz collapses as he attempts to walk from the field.

Fritz collapses as he attempts to walk from the field. Photo: Screengrab

The incident attracted widespread criticism, much of it centred around Noves's handling of the situation, with players from around Europe condemning Fritz's return to play. 

"What a shambles that Fritz is allowed back on to the field! Makes a mockery of things," respected England prop Alex Corbisiero tweeted on Saturday. 

Former Scotland and Toulon winger Rory Lamont also weighed in, telling espnscrum.com that management's decision-making was "bewildering". 

"In terms of all the signs and symptoms of an obvious concussion, that was as bad as it gets," Lamont said.

"To see him come back on after that is just bewildering. It is difficult to tell what went on without speaking to those involved but there is a standard process where medics are put under huge pressure to get a player back on the field."

Rugby worldwide is under fierce pressure to reform its treatment and protocols around head knocks after a number of high profile incidents involving players either returning to play after what appear to be bad head knocks, or suffering long periods out of the game. 

The sport's world governing body, the International Rugby Board (IRB), has rolled out strict protocol nicknamed "head bin" which sees affected players assessed by an independent medico, who decides whether they return to play. 

Last year further guidelines were added, tightening the process so that if a player lost consciousness or was visibly affected by the knock, automatic removal was required. 

However, the IRB's capacity to enforce the way national unions - in this instance the French Rugby Federation (FFR) - use the protocols is severely limited. 

"It is shocking players are still being allowed to return to the field after such obvious signs of concussion," former IRB medical adviser Barry O’Driscoll, who is a critic of the IRB's so-called Pitch Side Concussion Assessment, told English newspaper The Daily Mail

"If rugby doesn’t wake up to this and start demonstrating a zero tolerance approach to head injuries, it will be storing up some very serious legal problems for itself."

Former Super Rugby title-winning Chiefs captain Craig Clarke earlier this year announced an indefinite break from rugby after suffering his 10th concussion in 22 months, the most recent while playing with Irish province Connacht. 

Australian sport has also come under the spotlight for the various codes' handling of concussion in contact sports. 

The Australian Rugby Union's (ARU) chief doctor Warren McDonald was heavily criticised after allowing Wallabies veteran George Smith to return to play after losing consciousness in the third Test against the British and Irish Lions last year. 

The AFL has been forced to review its approach to contact after Melbourne Demons player Jack Viney escaped punishment for his collision with Adelaide's Tom Lynch. Viney was originally suspended for two matches but successfully appealed the decision. 

Former Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom was an outspoken critic of Australia's treatment of head injuries, warning an NFL-style multi million dollar class action was possible here if rugby in particular did not overhaul its protocols.