Monday 26 February 2018

Concussion victim George North left out by Wales for Scotland clash

George north receives a nasty blow to the head
George north receives a nasty blow to the head

Wales boss Warren Gatland says it was "a welfare decision" behind George North missing next Sunday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Scotland at Murrayfield.

North has been given an extended recovery period and will not be involved in the Edinburgh encounter. He has been replaced by Liam Williams as a solitary change from last Friday's 21-16 home defeat against England.

North suffered two heavy blows to the head during that game, and although the Welsh Rugby Union has said he has been symptom-free in terms of concussion, the WRU said on its official Twitter feed that North will undergo an extended recovery period.

Rugby union's world governing body World Rugby said earlier this week that North should not have remained on the field after a clash of heads with team-mate Richard Hibbard during the England clash.

But World Rugby added that it accepted the WRU's explanation surrounding the incident.

North appeared to suffer a momentary loss of consciousness after the 61st-minute collision with Hibbard. WRU national medical manager Prav Mathema subsequently admitted that had the second incident been seen by medics then North would have been immediately taken off and replaced.

North left the field in the first half after receiving an accidental boot to the head from England lock Dave Attwood, but he was able to continue after treatment.

Speaking on Wednesday, Wales head coach Gatland said: "Potentially, he was available this week. He was in the middle of the protocols in terms of the concussion stuff.

"But we just felt that he had taken a couple of knocks last week, he took another knock against the All Blacks in the autumn, and from our point of view one of the things we pride ourselves on is the welfare of the players and putting the players first.

"The decision was made as much about him being a young man and making sure he is being looked after from a welfare point of view.

"If we had seen the incident, we would have done something about it.

"As far as I am concerned, our medical team have followed the protocols.

"I am more than happy for you to talk to any of our players about our approach to any of the medical stuff in terms of backing the players 100 per cent.

"George is completely symptom-free.

"We try not to let external pressure affect our decisions, but look, he is a young man. He was out for three or four weeks after a knock in the autumn.

"I spoke to him this morning. He is not a happy man, I can tell you that. He is disappointed that we have ruled him out.

"I said to him it is not a rugby decision, it is a welfare decision about him and his longevity in the game.

"I said to him 'you have taken a couple of knocks on the weekend, and the last thing that you need or the game needs is that if you get another knock this Sunday, we don't need that in the game at the moment.'

"So the precautionary thing is to make a positive decision about George and his welfare in the future."

North was concussed during Wales' loss to world champions New Zealand in November and he missed the following weekend's clash against South Africa.

Prop Samson Lee, though, has been named in the starting line-up for Murrayfield, subject to him successfully completing graduated return to play protocols after he was concussed against England.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny and fly-half Dan Biggar both suffered knocks during the England encounter, but have made Gatland's team.

Williams' selection will be well-received in many quarters, given his consistently outstanding form this season, as Wales look to bounce back following the England reversal against a country they have not lost to since 2007.

With Williams promoted to the team, Scarlets centre Scott Williams joins the Wales replacements for Edinburgh.

Gatland added: "The response from the players has been very positive in training this week and we are looking forward to having the opportunity to right last weekend's wrongs.

"Scotland started the tournament well against France, building on their autumn campaign, and they will be looking forward to welcoming us to Edinburgh this weekend.

"We know what we need to do and we hope our performance can reflect that."

Prop Gethin Jenkins will make his 50th Six Nations appearance as Wales look to avoid losing their opening two Six Nations games for the first time since 2007.

Wales, meanwhile, confirmed that seven players will return to their clubs and regions after training on Wednesday.

The players concerned are Wasps lock Bradley Davies, Scarlets pair Gareth Davies and Rob Evans, Cardiff Blues duo Cory Allen and Kristian Dacey, plus Ospreys forward James King and Newport Gwent Dragons back Hallam Amos.

Wales team to play Scotland at BT Murrayfield on Sunday.

L Halfpenny (Toulon); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Clermont Auvergne), J Roberts (Racing Metro), L Williams (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), R Webb (Ospreys); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), R Hibbard (Gloucester), S Lee* (Scarlets), J Ball (Scarlets), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues, capt), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: S Baldwin (Ospreys), P James (Bath), A Jarvis (Ospreys), L Charteris (Racing Metro), J Tipuric (Ospreys), M Phillips (Racing Metro), R Priestland (Scarlets), S Williams (Scarlets).

* Subject to player completing graduated return to play protocol.

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