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Warren Gatland tells George North to focus on health after concussion scare

Warren Gatland believes George North must put his long-term health before chasing a quick return to rugby, as investigations into his latest concussion scare continue.

British and Irish Lions boss Gatland insisted Wales wing North will not be under any pressure for a quick playing return, after appearing to be knocked out during Northampton's Premiership defeat at Leicester on Saturday.

Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) are investigating how North was allowed to return to Saturday's match following a Head Injury Assessment (HIA).

Northampton have stood North down pending further neurological tests, but insist the 24-year-old did not fall unconscious and have since said they did not have pitchside access to all camera angles of Saturday's incident.

"I promise you, there will be no pressure from me in terms of getting on the field quickly," said Wales and Lions boss Gatland, of North's well-being.

"His health is the most important thing, not just in the short term but long term - there's quite a bit of evidence to show that there is potentially long-term effects for people who have taken a number of knocks in contact sport.

"He needs to consider that, to see specialists about that to show that he is 100 per cent right. Rugby is secondary, his health is the most important thing."

North was out of action for five months after suffering four blows to the head in five months between November 2014 and March 2015.

The Lions wing fell heavily after a challenge from Leicester wing Adam Thompstone in Northampton's 19-11 Premiership defeat at Welford Road on Saturday.

North returned to the match following head-injury checks, leading to controversy after the television footage suggested to indicate he had been knocked out.

While the Premiership's governing body continue their investigation into the incident, Lions coach Gatland has insisted North's welfare must remain paramount.

"I absolutely understand it's concerning, he's had a few knocks in the past and you want to make sure they go through the right process to make sure that if he does play again, he is fully fit and recovered.

"And if he does pick up knocks in the future, it needs to be dealt with and he needs to potentially consider what is the best process for him to go through.

"He has stepped down in the past for a lengthy amount of time, and if he does need that again, it's something people better qualified than me need to consider.

"I find it a bit strange; he passed the HIA. That is a bit confusing.

"I've just seen the clip and heard that he's been stood down. If that's for safety reasons, just to make sure he's right, it's the best scenario - to make sure there's no risk to his health.

"That's the most important thing, long-term, his health. We've made comments before - definitely he needs to put himself first, his long-term health.

"Northampton say they didn't see the clip, and he passed the HIA test - so from a coaching point of view, you assume the process has been followed."

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