Sunday 25 August 2019

North out following Concussion review

George North. Photo: PA
George North. Photo: PA

Jack Austin

George North will not make his comeback for Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens tonight, despite being passed fit to play after yet another concussion.

The Wales winger has not featured since being signed off for an indefinite period of time after a mid-air tackle against Leicester on December 3 appeared to leave him lying on the floor unconscious.

The RFU decided to review the incident after North was allowed to continue playing following a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) carried out by Saints' doctors, who later admitted they hadn't seen every angle of the incident on the pitch-side monitor.

Saints escaped without punishment when the review was published on Wednesday, but it did say that the club should not have allowed the 24-year-old to return to the field, especially given his history of concussive head injuries. This decision has angered many in the game, with former Saracens captain Alistair Hargreaves arguing that the failure to sanction Northampton for their handling of North's latest head injury as a "cop-out".

Two months ago, Hargreaves was forced to retire from the game at the age of 30 having suffered five concussions in two years.

It is a subject on which the South African lock holds strong opinions and following the publication of the investigation he tweeted that the findings were a "disgrace" that signalled a "depressing day for rugby".

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder indicated North would make his return in a must-win game against Sale Sharks tonight after taking part in full training sessions, but needed to be signed off by a specialist.

However, a statement yesterday confirmed the Welshman would not feature. "George North has both trained with the squad and undergone a specialist review this week," said Northampton. "All parties have agreed that North continue with a full training schedule with the rest of the club's players to ensure he is fully prepared for first-team action."

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The Concussion Management Review Group also made nine recommendations based on their findings, including consideration of the introduction of pitch-side video reviewers and that the entire HIA take place off and away from the field of play.

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