Horsted Keynes rugby player in intensive care after serious neck injury in France

A rugby player from Horsted Keynes is in intensive care after suffering a serious neck injury during a scrum in France.

James Lasis, a former Brighton College student who plays for Stade Niçois, was hurt during a match between Stade Niçois and Rugby Club Narbonnais on Sunday (April 25).

A Stade Niçois spokesman said James, 25, underwent emergency cervical surgery and is now being treated at Nice University Hospital.

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But the ‘extraordinary lad and rugby player’ is still in a ‘worrying condition’, the spokesman said.

James Lasis. Picture: Stade Nicois Rugby

“He can’t move at all the moment,” said his mother Judy Lasis, who was watching the game live on television when the accident happened.

She said James is currently being fed via a tube and cannot breathe on his own.

But doctors are hopeful that James’s breathing will kick in once they stabilise his neck joints and move him into a different position, she added.

“One of his trapezius muscles has been seen twitching, which is good,” Judy said, adding that James’s spinal cord is badly damaged but not severed.

James Lasis. Picture: Stade Nicois Rugby

Judy also said that one of James’s friends, Pablo, has been at his bedside whenever he can.

James cannot speak at the moment, she said, but he is communicating with his eyes.

“When he gets tired he does three winks with his right eye and Pablo says you can see when he’s pleased,” she said.

“At the moment he can’t talk because he’s got things down his throat, but he should be able to talk once they get the tubes out.”

Judy, 65, and her husband Karl, 68, are both retired and are heading to France today (April 30) as James wakes up from another operation.
“We’ve really struggled to get out there,” said Judy, adding that they needed a letter from the hospital to explain the emergency circumstances.

They also had to get their second Covid-19 vaccination early, have PCR tests and fill in ‘endless forms’, Judy said, because of the tough Covid restrictions in France.

But Judy said Stade Niçois had arranged everything in France for them and they will be staying in an Airbnb near the hospital.

Judy and Karl were watching the match on TV on Sunday and saw the accident happen live.

“There was a scrum, the scrum went down and we saw our son’s boots at the bottom of the pile and he was not moving,” said Judy.

She said she was screaming at the television as the medics came on to the pitch.

The scene lasted about 20 minutes and Judy contacted Stade Niçois on social media to speak to the club’s president.

Judy does not speak French but they overcame the communication barrier and the president told them that surgeons would operate as soon as possible.

“He even gave me the surgeon’s name straight away, so they’ve been wonderful,” Judy said.

Judy thanked supporters in both England and France who have set up fundraising pages for James and his family.

The JustGiving page has raised about £15,000 while the Leetchi page has raised more than 11,000€.

People can donate to the English fund at www.justgiving.com or the French fund at leetchi.com.

“The support has been unbelievable,” said Judy, thanking everyone for their financial contributions and kind messages.
“It’s been across the world – Australia, New Zealand and the French, I’ve just been thrilled with the French.”

Judy and James’s brother Matt are encouraging people who know James to send short messages of support to his Instagram @jameslasis, Twitter @jameslas95 or WhatsApp (number on Matt’s instagram @mattlasis).

His friend Pablo is showing James the messages.

Judy said James is in his first season for Stade Niçois, having previously played for Mâcon in France and the Rotherham Titans before that.

James is a former UK youth champion in discus, she added, and a ‘very sporty, very athletic young man’.

“At the moment we are all devastated but you’ve got to hope,” she said.
A Stade Niçois spokesman said: “Our club, from the school of rugby to his friends in the first team, has only one priority: to support James throughout this ordeal and to support his family.”

“Players, sportsmen and administrative staff, managers, volunteers, Rugby lovers in France, England and everywhere think of James and give him their full support,” he added.

Stade Niçois thanked the medical teams who took care of James during the match, the CHU teams who now care for him every day, and everyone who has supported the young rugby player.

The club has created an email address for messages of support, which will be turned into a montage for James.