In Brief

Fury as Northampton avoid sanction over George North concussion

No penalty for club despite wrongly allowing winger to continue playing after head injury

Rugby's attitude towards concussion is back in the spotlight with the decision not to punish Northampton Saints for allowing George North to play after an injury.

The winger appeared to be knocked unconscious after falling on his neck during a game against Leicester earlier this month, but was allowed to play on by the pitchside medical team.

A review into the incident said North, who has a history of concussions, "should not have returned to the field of play". However, it did not impose any sanctions on his club.

The decision is "utterly baffling", says Owen Slot in The Times, adding that it seems "incredible" Northampton did not realise the Wales and Lions star had been knocked out.

However, it is the "broader message" of the investigation that is of concern - that although a player's health was endangered, there will be no sanction, says the journalist.

He writes: "There is no shouting from the rooftops: this was a despicable error and must never be allowed to happen again. There is no apology to North: you were let down, this will never happen again. There was no acknowledgement that this was the darkest of days for the game."

Rugby has "lost its marbles", says Robert Kitson in The Guardian. "At a time when player welfare is meant to be twinkling at the top of everyone's tree, the game is in danger of sliding back into the self-policing dark ages."

Northampton did not deliberately mishandle the situation, but "what if North had ended up with something worse than a stiff neck? And what if something similar happens this weekend?" he adds.

"A suspended fine or perhaps the threat of a points deduction would have sent a rather stronger message about the importance of recognising and removing players suspected of a possible brain injury which, after all, is what concussion is."

However, former England player Ben Kay, also writing in the Times, argues punishing Northampton would have been counterproductive.

He says: "We have to ask ourselves why we want sanctions: for punishment or actually to make things safer? If we make it so that clubs are fined when they get things wrong, it will create an atmosphere of fear where people are scared to talk up, and there's a danger that would make things less safe."

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