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Sale face RFU and Premiership Rugby probe over handling of TJ Ioane head blow

Published 13/01/2017

Sale back row TJ Ioane appeared to be concussed against Harlequins yet stayed on the pitch
Sale back row TJ Ioane appeared to be concussed against Harlequins yet stayed on the pitch

Sale are being investigated over a possible breach of protocol in head injury management after TJ Ioane completed last Saturday's match against Harlequins despite appearing to show signs of concussion in the first half.

Northampton last month controversially avoided sanction for failing to withdraw George North from play after he appeared to have been knocked out.

Now Sale's actions after the warning signs that suggested Ioane had been concussed are also to be the subject of a joint Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby probe.

The Samoa back row took a blow to the head while tackling Harlequins flanker Dave Ward in the 30th minute of a 29-26 defeat at Twickenham Stoop, groggily returned to his feet and remained in action until the final whistle.

The incident was not picked up by the member of the Sharks medical team appointed to look for instances of concussion during the match with the assistance of TV replays, and so he was not removed for a head injury assessment (HIA).

An RFU statement read: "A concussion management review group panel will convene to examine an incident in the 30th minute of the match between Harlequins and Sale on 7 January, involving Sale player TJ Ioane.

"The RFU and Premiership Rugby have appointed Dr Julian Morris to be the independent chairman and will be joined by the RFU's director of professional rugby Nigel Melville and Phil Winstanley, the rugby director at Premiership Rugby.

"A joint RFU/Premiership Rugby update will be provided in seven days and until that time no further comment will be made."

After the tackle by Ward, Ioane had three more involvements in the game before the whistle was blown to award Harlequins a penalty for offside.

It was at this point that the visiting number eight James Chisholm approached his opposite number to ask if he was okay, resulting in a nod from Ioane.

In a separate case, Sale are currently being sued by former scrum-half Cillian Willis for alleged "clinical negligence" after he was forced to retire at 28 because of concussion.

Co-player concern has been outlined by the game's authorities as a potential indicator of concussion in the wake of last month's inquiry into the North incident.

On December 21 a joint RFU and Premiership review opted against charging Northampton or their medical staff with misconduct for allowing the Wales wing to resume playing despite appearing to have been knocked unconscious in a league match against Leicester on December 3.

The decision not to issue any sanction but to outline nine recommendations on concussion management was widely condemned.

"There is absolutely no question that there are going to more of these review that come up," said RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie, speaking before the Sale probe was announced.

"You have to look at each individual circumstance because every single individual circumstance is different.

"I understand the point that people were disappointed that there were no sanctions (against Northampton) and disappointed that George was not removed from the pitch and we hope everyone learns from that.

"It is absolutely the right thing to focus attention on this. There will be continued work - it is an ever-continuing assessment to find what we do to make the game as safe as it can be."

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