Rugby: Potential concussion incident involving former Highlanders flanker TJ Ioane to be investigated by RFU

Former Otago flanker TJ Ioane (r) is at the heart of a concussion investigation. Photo / Glenn Taylor.
Former Otago flanker TJ Ioane (r) is at the heart of a concussion investigation. Photo / Glenn Taylor.

A New Zealand player is at the centre of another English Rugby investigation into the handling of a potential concussion incident.

Sale Sharks are the latest Premiership club being investigated for alleged breaches of head injury protocols after flanker TJ Ioane was allowed to play on despite appearing to be concussed against Harlequins last Saturday.

Three weeks after Northampton Saints escaped punishment for allowing winger George North to play on after he was knocked out against Leicester on December 3, it was announced on Friday that Sale have become the second club to face a Concussion Management Review Group (CMRG) following the incident.

Ioane was involved in a tackle with Harlequins flanker Dave Ward 30 minutes into the game which left him lying dazed on the ground with his arms pointing to the sky in an apparent 'fencing' motion, indicating a possible head injury.

Moments later Harlequins No8 James Chisholm showed clear concern for Ioane's well-being - one of the red flags to indicate concussion - but despite members of Sale's medical team having access to state-of-the-art technology providing footage of suspected incidents, Ioane did not even undergo a Head Injury Assessment.

The joint RFU and Premiership CMRG, comprising independent chairman Dr Julian Morris, RFU director of professional rugby Nigel Melville and Premiership Rugby director Phil Winstanley, was heavily criticised for failing to sanction Northampton over their mishandling of North's concussion against Leicester.

The same three men will now look into the incident involving Ioane with Sale - who are already fighting a court case against former scrum-half Cillian Willis for alleged mishandling of a concussion which forced him to retire in 2013 - set to answer more tough questions over their handling of the incident.

In September, Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond heavily criticised rugby's Head Injury Assessment, claiming 'all you need now is a slap on the head' to be removed from the field.

Speaking before the latest announcement, RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie on Friday defended the findings of the original CMRG investigation into the North case, which made nine recommendations around improving concussion education but stopped short of imposing sanctions.

'We are pretty much the only country in the world that has a review process around concussion,' Ritchie said.

'If we discover with the review group that there was some flagrant disregard of what should have happened, then I'm sure that will be dealt with, and the review group has an ability to sanction.'

- Daily Mail

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