New Zealand's Rugby Union admit mistake that led to concussion decision

Jeremy Loughman passed a head injury assessment in Wednesday’s game against the Maori All Blacks despite showing clear symptoms of concussion. Fellow prop Ed Byrne is joining the touring squad.

Jeremy Loughman during Wednesday's game.
Jeremy Loughman during Wednesday's game.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

NEW ZEALAND RUGBY have this morning admitted to a communication error which resulted in Ireland’s loosehead prop, Jeremy Loughman, being allowed to play 28 minutes of Wednesday’s opening tour game against the Maori All Blacks, even though he was evidently showing symptoms of concussion.

Loughman was captured on camera falling backwards after he attempted to get to his feet following a collision in the second minute of their 32-17 defeat.

Given that World Rugby have clear protocols surrounding concussion, whereby players who show symptoms have to be immediately removed from the field, Loughman’s return to the pitch was a surprise.

He played from the 12th minute until half-time when, during the interval, Ireland decided to replace him with Cian Healy – who subsequently picked up a lower limb injury. Initially it looked as though Healy’s tour would end but he has made a remarkable recovery and looked lively sprinting around Eden Park earlier this morning during the captain’s run.

Within an hour of that training session, news was emerging that Ed Byrne was flying out to join the tour and will land in Auckland tomorrow morning. It was also confirmed that Healy had come through the final training session unscathed.

Shortly after that, New Zealand Rugby issued a statement where they admitted that a review of the Loughman incident found that correct protocol was not followed during the head injury assessment (HIA) which was a result of miscommunication between medical staff.

Their statement read: “NZR believes Ireland prop Jeremy Loughman should not have been allowed back on to the field during the first half.

“While NZR stands by the HIA processes in place and is satisfied that player welfare is the number one priority for medical staff at the match, we have identified a gap in communications, which meant critical video evidence was not fully accounted for as part of the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) process undertaken by the independent match day medical team.”

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The Loughman incident has been criticised by Progressive Rugby who said the way he was treated was “deeply alarming”.

Addressing the issue yesterday, Ireland coach, Andy Farrell said: “Jeremy is fine. He got cleared by the Independent match-day doctor and we reviewed that at half-time and did the right thing. He’s now going through the HIA return-to-play protocols.”

Asked if the events of Wednesday showed the system is broken, Farrell replied: “It’s above me really. We try to do our best and that’s what we did. 100pc. What we, and our medical staff did, was look after Jeremy to the best of our ability, and that will continue.”

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Garry Doyle  / reports from Auckland

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