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'Cam Neild, who was sparked out, passed his HIA after the game'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Sale boss Alex Sanderson is happy with the way concussion is being handled at the Gallagher Premiership club, their medics making sure Cam Neild had this weekend off from playing even though he passed his HIA after last Sunday’s defeat at Exeter. The forward was a half-time replacement whose second half was cut short just minutes after the restart when he was knocked out in a legal tackle by Jannes Kirsten.  

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Neild was stretchered off following lengthy on-pitch treatment and while he came through his post-game HIA, Sanderson was told there was no way the back row could be considered for selection for this Saturday’s game at home to Gloucester.  England, meanwhile, opted to leave scrum-half Raffi Quirke out from their squad this week after he also suffered a head knock at Sandy Park – although he has since recovered and will take a place on the Sale bench at the AJ Bell.  

“Am I happy with how it [concussion] is handled? I think I am at the moment,” said Sanderson in reply to a query from RugbyPass following a game where three Sale players required head injury assessments. “Everyone is passing their test, there are no lingering effects which means they were looked after as best they could. 

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Back in the Game – RFU
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Back in the Game – RFU

“Even Cam Neild, who was clearly sparked out, he passed his HIA straight after the game. Technically he can play this weekend but the medical team said, ‘No, it’s not right’. When you are that concussed and you have taken that big a shot we have got a duty of care to give him that extra time, that extra week, to make sure he is fully right so he won’t be involved this weekend, much to his disappointment. He wants to play but we made that call. 

Sale were bemused by their high injury rate in the defeat at Exeter, numerous players heading off with various bumps and Sanderson suggested the attrition was an example of the damage that can be sustained when you are off your game in the collisions. “We were off it, we were fractions of a second off it in terms of getting off the line, we were on the back foot a lot of the time. 

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“Our urgency in all areas of the game was poor and when you look across the board and you are just off it in every area, it’s too much to fix at half-time which was what we put to the lads. As rough and as sorry for ourselves as we felt, we talked repeatedly at half time about how we could fix all those things with a shifting mentality, how we could be quicker, faster off the line and measure ourselves in our intent in the second half and not our lack of it in the first. Even through the illness, you saw the difference it made. 

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“But it was hectic, you were just putting out fires. You go in with a plan for the replacements and people may be carrying little niggles or may be fatigued during the week and are carrying sniffles pre-game and then for those things to happen – everyone has got a plan until the first shot is fired. It just went out the window and we were just trying to manage collateral damage. 

“I’m not making excuses, we had a few ill people last week, we went into the game with the best of them now having prepped well enough or been at their top form and then when you do that, particularly a team like ourselves that relies on physicality on the front foot, you tend to come off second best in the collisions which we did in that first half. 

“When you come off second best in a game of that physicality you get the odd head knock. It was the perfect storm, a combination of sniffles, not being quite there and then taking those hits and we’re on the back foot which resulted in three HIAs and hookers playing in the back row for the length of the second half. But we made do and I was pretty proud of their efforts.”

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