Six Nations 2015: Warren Gatland puts welfare first by resting George North

North suffered a concussion against England last week

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The Independent Online

George North will be rested for Sunday’s trip to Murrayfield for the good of the game and the good of the player, according to the Wales head coach, Warren Gatland.

North is the sole change from the side that lost the opening Six Nations match 21-16 to England on Friday night, with Liam Williams replacing him in the starting line-up and Scarlets team-mate Scott Williams named on the bench.

North has cleared every concussion protocol and was expected to sail through his final pre-match test tomorrow but, before even encountering that, Wales have taken the decision to rest him after two blows to the head during the game with England.

Gatland admitted he would probably have selected North to face Scotland had he not suffered a previous concussion against New Zealand during the autumn internationals, which put him on the sidelines for three weeks.

“But it’s all speculation,” said Gatland. “I can imagine that if we had not made this decision and George goes out on Sunday and gets another knock, how is that going to look for George and how’s it going to look for rugby as a whole?

“Give us a little bit of credit as, if we didn’t do this and he got another knock, it would be a bad image for the game and the amount of criticism and abuse we would probably have received afterwards from all sorts of people. I don’t think it’s worth making that decision at the moment.”

For the Wales camp, the solitary selection change is a damage limitation exercise on many levels, after the management and medical staff were criticised for the failure to remove North from the field after he appeared to be knocked out following a clash of heads with his team-mate Richard Hibbard in the 61st minute.

Wales’ medical team had not seen the incident while Gatland himself insisted yesterday that he had not been privy to the North concussion either at the time.

The Wales Rugby Union was cleared of any wrongdoing over the incident for exactly that reason, but Gatland was adamant the decision to leave North out of the match-day squad had nothing to do with the furore in the ensuing days after the match.

“We try not to let external pressure affect our decisions but, look, he is a young man and was out for three or four weeks after a knock in the autumn,” added Gatland.

“I spoke to him this morning. He is not a happy man, I can tell you that. He is disappointed we have ruled him out. I said to him it is not a rugby decision, it is a welfare decision about him and his longevity in the game.”

Wales could yet make a late additional change to their starting line-up as the front-row forward Samson Lee, who was also concussed at the Millennium Stadium against England, is still going through the relevant protocol. As a result, the Wales squad will travel to Scotland with their match-day 23 and the addition of the Cardiff Blues prop Scott Andrews as a precaution.

However, the conclusion of the North concussion debate will allow conversation to turn to Scotland, a side Gatland has not lost to since he became head coach in 2007.

Wales still have the belief they can win the Six Nations, as they did in 2012 after losing their first match, but Gatland stressed that the team need to “go out and play for longer than just 40 minutes”.

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