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Northampton doctor okayed George North return after head injury - Jim Mallinder

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder denied that George North had been knocked out during Saturday's 19-11 Aviva Premiership defeat at Leicester.

North crashed to the ground heavily after being tackled in the air by Adam Thompstone in the 17th minute, earning the Tigers player a yellow card, and television replays appeared to show the Wales winger unconscious.

The 24-year-old left the field for a head injury assessment, after a lengthy period of treatment, but reappeared five minutes later and finished the game.

North has had issues with concussion in the past, but Mallinder insisted he had not been knocked out on this occasion.

"I don't make those decisions and our doctors and medical staff are really clear that if anyone gets knocked unconscious or has had a knock where they look like they are unconscious, they need to come straight off," he said. "It's as simple as that. You don't go to be assessed - you are off straight away. George has had some previous issues so he took it steady.

"The doctor was very, very happy even as he walked off that he was just going to go for an assessment and thankfully he could come back on.

"Our doctor makes those decisions but there are protocols that go on with people looking at the incident."

The Saints released a statement later on Saturday stating North was "communicating immediately with attending medics" and was only passed fit to return after he was "fully assessed by the doctor".

The statement read: "George was attended to by the Northampton Saints medical team rapidly after landing on his side following a challenge in the air by Adam Thompstone.

"George was communicating immediately with attending medics and complaining of neck pain.

"Significant neck injury was excluded on the field but on review of video footage pitch side, the team followed World Rugby protocols and used a Head Injury Assessment given the potential mechanism for head injury.

"George was fully assessed by the doctor and passed fit to return to play.

"Northampton Saints places the highest importance on player care and their safety is the club's primary concern."

Northampton's fourth straight loss to Leicester left them struggling in mid-table on 20 points - 11 behind Leicester, who reclaimed fourth spot a day after losing it to Exeter.

The visitors, who had England centre Luther Burrell sin-binned in the fourth minute, scored just one try, through hooker Mikey Haywood, taking their tally to just eight from their last eight games ahead of tough back-to-back European matches against Leinster.

Mallinder said: "It was a mixed performance. There was a lot of effort and some good periods.

"Our set-piece has been going well and our defence is good - we held them out for long periods. We had opportunities and when you are away from home you have to take them. We had a chance with a few minutes to go and got turned over.

"We have got two tough games coming up and we are looking forward to them. We competed, and we will certainly compete next week."

Leicester, who led 10-0 and then 13-11 at half-time, won the second half 6-0 thanks to penalties from Freddie Burns, who kicked 11 points, and Owen Williams in the final minute.

They owed their win to the forwards, who pinned Northampton in their own 22 for long periods of the second half.

Leicester have not lost at home to Northampton since 2007 and director of rugby Richard Cockerill was pleased to extend that record.

He said: "It's a good four points in a tight game. We started well but Adam Thompston'e yellow card gave them some oxygen and they got back into the game.

"The difference was that we controlled field position and put them under pressure. If they had scored at the end they would have won but there was some good defence from Sam Harrison, Luke Hamilton and Ed Slater to turn them over.

"It could have gone either way but we have got the confidence and belief to get over the finishing line."

Cockerill felt Thompstone's yellow card was harsh.

"I don't know where he was supposed to go after the ball bounced back at him and George jumped in the air," he said.

"I'm not sure where he was meant to go, unless he disappeared. We are going to put an order in for disappearing cloaks for next week."

He said England centre Manu Tuilagi, who made his comeback after injury at Bristol last week, was ready to start after getting another 30 minutes of action.

"He looks sharp and healthy," Cockerill said. "Let's hope that continues and we can get him back to where we would like him to be. I am sure he is ready to start."

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