George North will not play for Northampton again until he has been assessed by an independent expert in head injuries.
The Welsh wing, who has suffered a series of concussions, was cleared by Saints medics to continue playing during Saturday's Aviva Premiership clash with Leicester despite replays suggesting he had been knocked out following a tackle from Adam Thompstone.
Thanks for all the messages. I am ok. I landed on my neck and was worried about it. Thanks to the medics for checking me out properly. 1/2— George North (@George_North) December 3, 2016
Questions have been raised about whether the player's welfare was best served by his return to action but Northampton released a statement defending their actions, which they insist were fully in compliance with World Rugby's head injury assessment protocols.
The club do, though, admit that the footage available to them at the time was limited and have taken the precautionary steps of withdrawing North from action pending the specialist's verdict.
George North has been stood down.
Northampton say their doctors didn't see the TV replays that the public saw.
They should have 😪 pic.twitter.com/qQ6m5R7H9N— Gerard Fitzpatrick (@GerardYNWA) December 6, 2016
Northampton said: "As at every Aviva Premiership match, the Saints' medical team has access to video footage to be used to assist the pitchside assessment of injuries. 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.
"George was fully assessed by the doctor away from the pitch using the established protocols and processes, and passed fit to return to play. As with all such injuries, if evidence suggesting a loss of consciousness had been available to the medical team at the time of assessment, George would not have been allowed to return to the field of play.
"All rugby supporters will no doubt be delighted to learn that George remains well. Nevertheless, Northampton Saints continues to place player welfare as its number one priority, and is referring George to an independent expert as part of the club's ongoing assessment process and George will be stood down from play until this process is complete.
"There is a concussion management and monitoring protocol in place for all Aviva Premiership matches which provides for independent review and the opportunity for more detailed investigation. This is an ongoing process with several stages, and the club looks forward to contributing to this.
"Additionally Northampton Saints is seeking to work with all parties to improve the availability of all footage that may assist team medics with injury management."