The fallout from Ireland’s Six Nations victory has been one clouded in controversy after the newly-crowned champions continued to play down accusations of mismanagement of one of their players in last weekend’s victory over Scotland.
Loosehead prop Cian Healy suffered an injury during the first half of the 28-8 victory at the Aviva Stadium and triggered cause for concern when he stumbled around the pitch while receiving attention. From both live footage and replays, it appeared that Healy had suffered a blow to the head and looked to suffering from effects of a brain injury.
But when play moved back towards Healy, who by this time was receiving treatment from an Ireland medic, the 30-year-old got back to his feet to return to the game, leaving many onlookers shocked by what they saw.
Yet the Leinster prop continued until he was replaced in the 50th minute by Jack McGrath, leading to criticism of the Irish set-up.
A team update released on Monday claimed that Healy has suffered a “stinger injury” to his shoulder and not, in fact, a head injury, and that while he will be monitored throughout the week he was expected to train. Ireland assistant coach Richie Murphy confirmed that he was able to take part in training on Tuesday as Ireland prepare for their Grand Slam tilt against England this weekend, and stressed that there was no need for the concern over any head injury.
"He's fully fit, he trained fully," said Murphy. "He was assessed by our medics on the field on Saturday: he was coherent, and he just had a stinger problem."
But that explanation has not stuck with many critics who believe that even if he did not suffer a concussion, under World Rugby’s Head Injury Assessment Protocols he should have undergone an off-the-field check.
One critic of the incident was Peter Robinson, a man who lost his son, Ben, last year due to a head injury suffered while playing rugby. Robinson posted a picture of the protocols issued by World Rugby and highlighted the criteria that Healy appeared to meet, having received blows to the head in collisions with both John Barclay and Stuart Hogg.
Robinson highlighted the path that states that Healy should have been removed from the field for a HIA once the incident was seen on video replays, given that referee Wayne Barnes missed the incident, and that there was enough evidence for “the potential for concussion” that required an assessment – regardless of his ‘stinger’ injury.
World Rugby’s regulations state: "Cases where players have the potential for concussion, but without clear on-pitch symptoms or signs, undergo an off-field assessment consisting of a medical room clinical evaluation by an attending doctor supported by the multi-modal screening tool, and video review."
The incident is another ugly blotch on the treatment of head injuries in rugby over the last 18 months following similar incidents with Northampton Saints wing George North and Clermont Auvergne scrum-half Morgan Parra in which they were allowed to play on despite suffering apparent head injuries.
Ireland do have one injury concern heading into the weekend, with full-back Rob Kearney unable to train on Tuesday morning, but Murphy insisted that the decision was taken early on not to risk the 31-year-old and that he should be fine to feature at Twickenham.
"Rob's fine, it's just a case of managing his load," Murphy added.
"He picked up a couple of bangs in the Scotland victory, so we're just easing him back into the week. He's perfectly fine. He just got caught on his ankle, but he's fine.
“Again, the medics have looked at him, they are very happy with where he's at."
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