Northampton Saints secured the headlines on Saturday as they beat Leicester Tigers, 24-11, and emerged victorious from the East Midlands derby, but it was a fixture which may be better remembered for an incident involving flanker Dominic Ryan.
The Irish back rower’s head collided with the hip of George North in the 51st minute, as the Leicester man attempted to tackle North into touch. The collision left Ryan face-down on the pitch, where he stayed for a few moments before moving to stand.
Medics were quickly onto the pitch to check on Ryan and after a brief examination, he jogged over to a forming scrum and took his place on the blindside flank.
The trio of Ben Kay, Austin Healey and Alastair Eykyn on BT Sport commentary duty were all sure Ryan would need a HIA (head injury assesment) and were surprised when Ryan retook his place on pitch with his teammates.
They put the question to Leicester coach Geordan Murphy a few minutes later during a pitchside interview and Murphy confirmed that the Leicester staff had seen the incident and were confident that it was nothing more than Ryan being winded from the tackle.
The irony of the incident is that it was North who, in this same fixture last season, was allowed to play on after taking a serious head knock and seeming to be out cold on the Franklin’s Gardens pitch.
It is worth noting the difference in these two incidents being that North was strongly suspected of having lost consciousness, something which requires a player’s immediate and permanent removal from the field of play, with no need to undergo a HIA.
The footage around Ryan’s collision is less compelling, but the force with which his head impacts North’s hip and the prolonged period he spent down on the ground made the decision not to have him undergo a HIA seem odd.
Under the current HIA protocol, any player involved in a head impact event with the potential to cause concussion is required to leave the field for screening.
It remains to be seen whether Premiership Rugby will look further into the incident.