World Rugby won’t punish Wales

Date published: February 10 2015

World Rugby will not punish the WRU after concluding a full investigation into the medical treatment of George North against England.

"Following a full post-incident review, World Rugby believes that Wales player George North should not have remained on the field of play following a head impact in the 61st minute of the Wales versus England Six Nations match at the Millennium Stadium on Friday, read a statement on Wednesday. 

"The World Rugby head injury protocol clearly states that a player should be immediately and permanently removed from the field of play where there are any visible symptoms or suspicion of a potential concussion. 

"However, following thorough discussions and input from the independent expert Concussion Advisory Group, World Rugby accepts the WRU’s explanation 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 impact was the second sustained by the player in the match, following a first half temporary removal for a head injury assessment. Having reviewed the incident report, World Rugby can confirm that the WRU followed correct protocols when assessing North following this first incident. The WRU has outlined that the player continues to undergo close medical supervision and is undertaking supervised graduated return to play protocols. 

"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 to minimise the chance of a repeat incident and further enhance the protection and support of players. 

"World Rugby will be immediately investigating, evaluating and promoting the implementation of the following measures: 

1. World Rugby will investigate the practicality of the television match official technology being expanded to identify head injuries as they happen on the field.
2. All elite competitions will be requested to provide pitch-side video for medical staff.
3. All elite tournaments will be encouraged to adopt the Rugby World Cup 2015 player welfare standards. 

"Independent medics and video review are a important feature of the Rugby World Cup 2015 player welfare standards announced in November 2014 that will operate at all 48 Rugby World Cup matches and also a central feature of other World Rugby tournaments and events.

"World Rugby would like to thank the WRU for its full cooperation and welcomes the proposed initiatives by the union to strengthen further the ability to correctly identify head impacts on the field of play.

WRU medical manager Prav Mathema earlier said that Wales wing George North should have been removed from the Millennium Stadium field.

"In the first incident, George took a blow to the head from an accidental boot. Following that, we attended to him on the field of play, and we weren't quite sure as a medical team at that point about his diagnosis," said Mathema in an interview to WRU TV.

"Because of that, we decided to use the head injury assessment protocol, and he went off for 10 minutes for a review. That was deemed negative, so he returned to the field of play.

"In the second incident, regrettably I was unsighted at that moment. The other pitch-side medic on the far side of the pitch was also unsighted.

"All I saw was George North getting up off his knees. When I arrived at the scene, as it were, he was completely lucid and was conversing spontaneously with me. I undertook some on-pitch evaluations, and that point I deemed him fit to continue.

"Regrettably, we didn't get a chance to see the incident, and had I been given that opportunity, there is no doubt that he would have been removed from the field of play.

"There is no pitch-side replays available currently, and the independent match-day doctor was unable also to aid us in that process.

"We unfortunately didn't see it, but having seen it since, obviously, there is no doubt that he looks like he has a momentary loss of consciousness, and in that case he should definitely be removed from the field of play.

"Part of the head injury assessment process is that he (North) has a secondary more in-depth evaluation, and this was done again by the independent match-day doctor.

"Again, he was deemed to be negative for any signs and symptoms of concussion.

"However, as a medical team we always get together afterwards and evaluate. The first time as a group we were able to evaluate the video footage, at that moment it was clear to see he had a momentary loss of consciousness.

"Because of that, irrespective of him having no signs and symptoms, we will be dealing with George as a concussion."