George North to return for Northampton to face Gloucester
First appearance for winger since sustaining head injury during Leicester clash
George North was cleared to play in last Friday’s 24-5 victory over Sale but Northampton omitted the Wales wing from their squad. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire
George North makes his first appearance since being the subject of a joint investigation into his latest head injury when Northampton face Gloucester on New Year’s Day.
A Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby review opted not to charge Northampton or their medical staff with misconduct for allowing North to resume playing despite his suspected loss of consciousness during an aerial collision.
North was cleared to play in last Friday’s 24-5 victory over Sale but Northampton omitted the Wales wing from their squad.
While North’s return to action brings to an end his most recent absence through concussion, the full consequences of allowing him to rejoin the match against Leicester are not yet known despite the outcome of the investigation.
The day after Northampton were cleared by the review, World Rugby announced it was seeking further information from the RFU about an “apparent non-compliance” with its concussion protocols.
In Saturday’s only fixture, Bath host Exeter in a west country derby that matches third against fourth in the Premiership.
Exeter – last season’s beaten finalists – have stuttered through the current campaign but climbed back into the play-off positions with a 31-10 victory over Leicester on Christmas Eve.
“Last week against Leicester was a good performance from us,” Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter said.
“What you are seeing at the moment is that we are on the right track and that we are playing at a level and an intensity that we feel comfortable with.
“Earlier in the season we weren’t quite hitting those levels, but it certainly feels like we are now.
“We’re back in the top four and things are now back in our hands so to speak. If we want to try and get to a Premiership final again, this is the place you need to be.”