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Northampton expect George North to be cleared for Sale Sharks clash

Northampton expect George North to be cleared by specialists to return to action in Friday's Aviva Premiership clash with Sale Sharks.

Wales wing North has been stood down since appearing to lie motionless following a dangerous tackle from Adam Thompstone in Saints' 19-11 defeat to Leicester on December 3.

A Concussion Management Review Group (CMRG), drawn up to investigate the handling of North's potential head injury, is now expected to reveal its findings on Wednesday.

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder remains confident, however, that North will be free to face Sale at Franklin's Gardens on Friday night.

"He's back in training and he should be available to play against Sale," said Mallinder.

"As I said he's been training (on Tuesday), he's had a bit of time off and he's feeling really good about himself, he's looking really sharp out there and he's looking forward to playing.

"George is actually going back to the specialists, just to check again that everything's okay.

"I'm not making decisions on whether he plays or not, that's out of my hands.

"That's down to the trained professionals to make the right judgements.

"And surely there's no better people to make those correct decisions."

North was allowed to return to action after his heavy fall against Leicester, with Northampton since admitting the 24-year-old could have suffered a head injury despite him passing pitch-side checks.

The concussion management panel that should release its findings on Wednesday has comprised of the RFU professional rugby director Nigel Melville, Premiership Rugby's rugby director Phil Winstanley and independent chairman Dr Julian Morris.

The first-ever such panel that was convened on December 5 will have now taken 16 days to finalise its conclusions should those be released on Wednesday.

North had a six-month spell out of the game in 2015 after a clutch of high-profile head injuries. Now though, Mallinder believes the British and Irish Lions star is back in rude health.

"It's something that happened a few weeks ago, and thankfully George is fine," said Mallinder.

"Physically he's been fine since the incident.

"So we're just waiting to hear from the report, and then we'll make our comment after that.

"I don't want to comment on the investigation any more, I spoke at length last week.

"What's important now is that it comes out and we can comment on it then.

"We've said it right from the beginning: player welfare is the most important thing.

"If there's any doubts the medics will come and talk to me and we will stand players down. So player welfare is number one."

Northampton will head into Friday's league clash with Sale fresh from the humiliating 60-13 European Champions Cup defeat to Leinster in Dublin.

The Saints rotated their resources for the Aviva Stadium rout, leading to criticism of that selection.

Tournament organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) could yet launch an investigation to determine whether Saints fielded a strong enough XV.

EPCR reviews all selections as a matter of course, and is yet to determine whether to launch any investigation into Northampton.

Saints boss Mallinder believes he was right to mix up his resources in Ireland, however.

"We stick by our decision, in that we've got a squad we register at the beginning of the season that we think are good enough to play in Europe," said Mallinder.

"And we played that squad.

"We did register one extra player, young James Fish who came in for Dylan Hartley, for obvious reasons.

"So that's what we decided to do, and hopefully the experience and freshness gained from them playing last week, hopefully that will benefit us down the line."

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