New Zealand Rugby have admitted that Jeremy Loughman should not have been allowed to return to the field during the defeat to the Maori All Blacks on Wednesday, after the Ireland prop shipped a heavy blow to the head.
Loughman struggled to get back to his feet following the clash in the early stages of the game in Hamilton, but despite leaving the action to be assessed, he was later permitted to come back on by the independent match doctor.
The incident has caused widespread concern regarding player welfare, and NZ Rugby have now come out and said that an error had been made.
Loughman was replaced at half-time on the back of advice given by the Ireland medics, who it is understood, did not have access to the same detailed footage as the independent doctor until then.
The Munster loosehead has been ruled out of tomorrow's first Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park, as he follows the return-to-play protocols.
Leinster prop Ed Byrne is due to arrive in New Zealand tomorrow morning as cover, with Cian Healy also having picked up what initially looked like a serious lower limb injury in the same Maori game.
However, Andy Farrell has named Healy on the bench for the first Test, with the veteran prop said to have miraculously come through today's captain's run at Eden Park.
The fallout over the ugly incident involving Loughman continues, however, with NZ rugby releasing the following statement on behalf of NZR Medical Manager Karen Rassmussen, who led the review.
“New Zealand Rugby has conducted a review of the HIA process during the Māori All Blacks match against Ireland at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on Wednesday 29 June.
“As a result of this review NZR believes Ireland prop Jeremy Loughman should not have been allowed back on to the field during the first half.
"While NZR stands by the HIA processes in place and is satisfied that player welfare is the number one priority for medical staff at the match, we have identified a gap in communications, which meant critical video evidence was not fully accounted for as part of the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) process undertaken by the independent match day medical team.
“We will be reinforcing the full HIA process and protocols for the remainder of the Steinlager Series to ensure video evidence is communicated more accurately between independent match day medical staff to enable them to make the right call with regards to player safety.”
Thankfully, Farrell has said that Loughman is recovering well from the blow to his head.
“He's fine, he's fine,” Farrell said of Loughman. “He got cleared by the independent match-day doctor and we reviewed that at half-time and did the right thing. He's now going through the HIA (head injury assessment) return-to-play protocols.”
Asked if this saga highlighted an inherent flaw in the HIA system, Farrell responded:
“It's above me really. We try do our best and that's what we did. 100pc. What we and our medical staff did was look after Jeremy to the best of our ability, and that will continue."
International Rugby Premium
Halfway through Ireland’s opener in Hamilton this morning we got a text from a survivor of the 1997 rough equivalent: the Maori versus Ireland Development in Palmerston North on what became known as the Tour to Hell.