George North doubtful for Leinster clash but will be ready to face Ireland
Welsh wing wonder George North will not be risked against Leinster this weekend but will be fit to face Declan Kidney's Ireland in their Cardiff Six Nations opener next month.
Leinster need a try-scoring bonus point win against the Scarlets in the RDS this Saturday to keep alive their improbable dreams of a Heineken Cup hat-trick, but it is now highly unlikely that they will have to face one of the struggling side's most potent scoring weapons.
The Scarlets wing (right) suffered a horrific double whiplash injury against Ulster at Ravenhill last Friday and the man who treated him on the sidelines has revealed just how lucky the player was to avoid serious long-term damage.
"His symptoms were as if he had a serious spinal injury," revealed club doctor Andrew Walker.
"With any kind of spinal injury, if someone has any pain at the back of the neck, along with some other clinical symptoms when you ask them, then they could theoretically have a fracture of their neck.
"George did have those symptoms on the pitch. So you then go down the precautionary route and he was put on a spinal board.
"It is frightening for the player. The main thing, from my point of view, is to try and reassure them. They know us as a medical team well enough that they put their trust in you."
While club coach Simon Easterby breathed a sigh of relief that his star player will suffer no long-term ill-effects, he is unlikely to risk North in what for his side is a dead-rubber in Pool 5.
"He possibly might get through to the game, but we've just got to be mindful that he has had a bit of a whack," said former Ireland international Easterby. "We have to know he is 100pc. There are things more important than playing, like being able to walk. It's important we look after him."
"It wasn't nice to see George go off like that.
"We were fortunate we had the right people in the right place to deal with that."
Flanker Aaron Shingler remains sidelined as he looks to recover from a groin problem, but he is progressing well and should be back in full training next week.
Welsh internationals Liam Williams (concussion) and Ken Owens (ribs) are also on the mend, but flanker Johnathan Edwards will be out for up to six weeks with a torn hamstring as the Scarlets struggle to put out their strongest side to face a full-strength Leinster outfit.