GEORGE North should be free to play against Scotland on Sunday after World Rugby accepted Wales’ version of events surrounding their player during their loss to England last week.
The global governing body did say that the winger should have been taken off the pitch when he received a second blow to the head during the 21-16 defeat, but they accepted the Welsh Rugby Union’s claim that their medical staff had not seen the incident.
North was assessed off the field after receiving an accidental kick to the head during the first half, and was allowed back on after medics decided he was not concussed. In the second half the damage was done by a clash of heads with team-mate Richard Hibbard, and although television replays appeared to show that North had been knocked out, WRU staff said they had been unaware at the time of the nature of the injury.
As well as ruling that North should not have been allowed to finish the match, World Rugby announced yesterday that they would investigate the possibility of using TV technology to ensure medical staff have instant access to replays. But, while they have the power in such circumstances to impose sanctions on a union, they accepted the WRU’s explanation.
“World Rugby accepts that neither the team medical staff nor the independent doctor had sight of the incident, and understands that the medics acted within the framework of information they had at the time and would have taken a different course of action had they had direct pitch-side visibility or access to the same broadcast footage seen by those watching on television,” the statement from the global governing body read.
Wales medical manager Prav Mathema said on Monday that, as North had not been diagnosed with concussion, he would continue his recovery and remain in contention for selection to play Scotland.
“Today he has been evaluated and he has shown no signs of any concussion and, because of that, he’s started his return-to-play protocol already and there’s been no issues,” Mathema said. “He has to go through that process for the rest of the week, having a step-by-step increase in his activity.”
World Rugby went on to explain that they would try to ensure that medical staff had access to instant replays of any injuries where concussion might have occurred. “Player welfare is World Rugby’s number-one priority and the incident highlights the importance of ensuring that medical staff are given the best possible level of support.
“World Rugby will investigate the practicality of the Television Match Official technology being expanded to identify head injuries as they happen on the field. All elite competitions will be requested to provide pitch-side video for medical staff.
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“All elite tournaments will be encouraged to adopt the Rugby World Cup 2015 player welfare standards.
“This approach also includes defined team and event medical staff minimum standards, mandatory completion of World Rugby concussion education, compulsory pre-tournament concussion baseline testing and a raft of other education modules aimed at further strengthening player welfare.
“It is World Rugby’s intention that these standards are implemented universally. Concussion management and education is at the heart of World Rugby’s player-welfare strategy.”
For the viewers who failed to understand why North was allowed to finish the game, World Rugby’s reaction may be seen as not even a slap on the Welsh wrist. But Wales centre Jamie Roberts, a qualified doctor, insisted that his team’s medical staff had done what they could with the information to hand.
“It’s unfortunate, that second incident,” Roberts said yesterday. “I think all the protocols have been followed by the union medical staff.
”All the players trust the medical staff. They are a very experienced bunch, and we trust their calls. It was an unfortunate incident.
“A lot has been made of it, and rightly so. Concussion is a huge part of the game at the moment, and hopefully the protocols that we put in place – there will be video replays now for the medical staff at home and away matches – are going to make the game safer for the players.”
Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde also defended his medical colleagues, and added that in addition to North, prop Samson Lee, who was concussed during the England game, was also undergoing return-to-play protocols.
“George is completely symptom-free,” McBryde said. “He is going through the return-to-play protocol.
“[North and Lee] are undergoing the return-to-play protocol, and the time that takes, it takes. I cannot say any more than that. .
“It’s something we have got to take our time over, and if we have got to delay naming the team, we will do. We are not going to be silly about it.”