Northampton have escaped punishment despite being told they were wrong to allow wing George North to resume playing a Premiership match after he suffered a head injury.
North, who has a history of concussions, was cleared to continue this month’s fixture against Leicester, amid concerns he may have been knocked out again, after being assessed by Saints doctors.
An independent inquiry ruled: “There was sufficient evidence to conclude not only from the video evidence but also George North’s history and risk stratification that he should not have returned to the field of play.”
The inquiry, carried out by the concussion management review group (CMRG) noted that Saints had since accepted their mistake and said it would not punish them as club doctors had acted in good faith.
It added: “The CMRG considered the welfare of North was always at the centre of Northampton’s actions, and does not consider that the medical team (or the club) failed to complete the HIA [head injury assessment] protocol nor intentionally ignored the player’s best interests.”
North’s case attracted scrutiny because replays appeared to show him motionless after the mid-air tackle, although the CMRG report notes that he told doctors it was because he feared a neck injury.
The Wales international also has a history of head injuries. He spent five months on the sidelines last year after suffering four concussions between November 2014 and March 2015.
The CMRG inquiry also made a series of additional recommendations for clubs in light of the incident – the first since the league adopted new concussion protocols this season.
Northampton’s avoidance of punishment was a second let-off of the day, after European chiefs ruled they had no case to answer over their team selection in the Champions Cup defeat to Leinster on Saturday.
Saints rested key players in a team featuring 10 changes and duly shipped nine tries, losing 60-13. Despite their verdict, a competition spokesperson said clubs were obliged to pick “the best possible squads”.