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Monday Mar 30, 2015

George North knocked out again as Nathan Hughes gets red card for knee

Northampton Saints winger George North received another blow to the head that has resulted in concussion and more concern about his long term playing career. The incident happened as he scored in Saints’ 52-30 victory over Wasps on Friday.

Last week that we highlighted the concern about repeated Leigh Halfpenny concussions, but this time it was Wales teammate North that was knocked out, albeit in entirely different circumstances.

He finished down the wing after some excellent play from Samu Manoa, but in the process was struck in the head by Wasps number eight Nathan Hughes. It looked entirely accidental, but the referee felt it was clumsy and could have been avoided, so showed Hughes a red card.

North was struck in the head twice in Wales’ recent Six Nations clash with England, causing a controversy over the way that was handled.

On this occasion he was clearly in no state to continue, and left the field on a stretcher. He later tweeted that he was up and about, and according to coach Jim Mallinder, was at the club on Saturday to receive treatment and further monitoring.

World Rugby (IRB) concussion advisor Professor Willie Stewart said that 22-year-old North needs to be given an extended period of rest to figure out if this is something that he has just not recovered from, or whether there are genuine issues.

“I think he personally needs to say, ‘No, I’m not playing again this season’. If he does play again too soon it could be the end of his World Cup or even his career,” explained Stewart.

“The people looking after him, including Northampton and the Welsh Rugby Union, should be recommending some time out and the experts he is seeing should recommend some time out. No-one should be talking about playing him next week. That’s just ridiculous.

“I know at this time of year we’re getting into the thick of it for trophies and championships but it’s also getting into the sharp end for George’s brain. I would be surprised if he makes another appearance,” he added.

As for the actual incident, Hughes seemed to ask the referee how he was expected to lift his leg up to avoid North in that situation. Saints coach Mallinder didn’t have too much sympathy though. “The opposition have got to then be very careful once the try is scored and it was reckless coming in with the knee. Some serious consequences happened because of it” he said.

Wasps coach Dai Young, who had a miserable night at the office, said that the Hughes dismissal was harsh and that he certainly isn’t a malicious player.

“I hope George is okay, Nathan has gone looking for him to make sure he is okay – he is not that type of person [who would injure someone deliberately].”

View a highlights wrap from the match, which includes North’s first try

UPDATE 31/03/15:
Hughes has been banned for three weeks. Disciplinary hearing details

photo: tony marshall/getty images europe

Nathan Hughes (Wasps Rugby) appeared before an RFU Disciplinary panel this evening, charged with striking with the knee and/or shin, contrary to Law 10.4(a), during Northampton Saints v Wasps RFC on Friday March 27 in the Aviva Premiership.

Hughes was found guilty of the charge and given a three-week ban*, starting today (March 31). He is free to play again on April 28.

Commenting on the judgement, Sir James Dingemans said “This was a three week ban on the basis that no intention was found.

“However, there was recklessness meaning that, notwithstanding the harm, it was a low entry point of four weeks with mitigation of one week to reflect his previous clean playing record.”

The Panel comprised Sir James Dingemans (Chair), Aidan O’Brien and Martyn Wood.

*To include three meaningful fixtures.

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