Warren Gatland tells George North to focus on long-term health instead of making Lions squad

After yet another head injury, the Welsh international has been warned that his health is "the most important thing"

George North, Warren Gatland, British and Irish Lions, Lions

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan 

Warren Gatland has told George North to focus on his health rather than worrying about making the Lions team in the wake of his suffering another head injury this past week. 

North landed awkwardly after a mid-air tackle from Adam Thompstone and suffered a concussion after jumping for a bouncing ball against Leicester, but was controversially allowed to return to the field of play shortly afterwards. 

On Tuesday, North was sent to an independent neurologist to assess his condition, and will be out of action until he has been cleared by them. However, his club and their medical staff are coming under increasing pressure to explain why he was allowed to play on when footage shows him lying prone on the ground after the incident.

Speaking at Carton House in Dublin on Wednesday, British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland stated that after this latest incident, North should take his mind off of playing for the Lions or his national side, and simply concentrate on making sure that he is healthy. 

"He definitely needs to put himself and his long-term health first and make sure he sees the right people until he does get the all-clear," Gatland said.

"I absolutely understand it’s concerning. He’s had a few knocks in the past, and you want to make sure they go through the right process to make sure that, if he does play again, he is fully fit and recovered.

"If he does pick up knocks in the future, it needs to be dealt with and he needs to potentially consider what is the best process for him to go through."

"I promise you there will be no pressure from me in terms of getting on the field quickly," Gatland added. "There’s quite a bit of evidence to show there are potentially long-term effects for people who have taken a number of knocks in contact sport. He needs to consider that. Rugby is secondary, his health is the most important thing."

North's record with concussions is getting increasingly longer and more worrying. In 2015 he was allowed to return to the field against England despite suffering a head injury, while he was also stretchered off for Northampton in March of last year after shipping a blow to the head.

Image: Wales' George North falls to the ground injured following a collision with Mike Brown of England. ©INPHO/James Crombie

For their part, Northampton have said the lack of replay angles available to them was part of the reason that they allowed North to go back into the action. 

In a statement, they said: "It is important to note this video footage is not always the full range of replay angles available to the TV viewing audience at home.

"The medical team can only base their decisions on the evidence available to them at the time of assessment. World Rugby protocol dictated, given the evidence available to the medical team, the use of a Head Injury Assessment."

They added that had they seen the angle that showed him losing consciousness, then he would not have been allowed back to play.

However, speaking to The Daily Mail, a source in BT Sport stated that the responsibility for the decision lies squarely with the medical team. 

"In the highly unlikely event the feed wasn't adequate and the spotter could not see the footage on their iPad, what about the countless times the incident was replayed on the big screen? Are they seriously saying not one member of Northampton's medical or coaching team saw those replays? It is simply not plausible."

Via The Guardian