North defiant amid concussion controversy


George North is prepared to continue to put his body on the line on the rugby field in order to pay the bills, despite being in the spotlight again following his latest head injury.

The Northampton Saints and Wales wing appeared to be knocked unconscious for the fifth time in his career against Leicester Tigers this month, though he carried on playing.

Despite the Concussion Management Review Group (CMRG), set up by Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union, ruling that North should not have gone back onto the turf, it was determined that no action would be taken against the club or any individual.

North has faced calls to retire for the good of his own health, but the 24-year-old takes inspiration from the likes of international team-mate Gethin Jenkins and insists quitting is not on the agenda.

"Gethin's body is in absolute tatters," North, who has been left out of the Saints squad to face Sale Sharks on Friday, told Sportsmail.

"He should be in a home somewhere. As a young professional looking up to an older and more experienced professional, if I could have that level of professionalism towards the end of my career and still want to get out of bed in the morning and go again then that would be pretty amazing. 

"Gethin is half-man, half-rehab. He does his extras and everything he needs to keep getting himself ready. If I can keep getting myself ready then I'll always keep doing it.

"If a player decided to pack the game in tomorrow, the question I ask is, who pays their mortgage? No one will, except that person. No one's going to pay his mortgage or look after his family. He's got to do it somehow. What's important is looking after them [family]. That's all I think about."

North concedes that the level of scrutiny and criticism he has faced in his career has caused him some unhappiness, but he recognises the importance of rugby in his life.

"Sometimes I do ask myself why I put myself through all this stuff," he added. "You never go out to do a bad job. You go out to be the best you can be.

"When people say things about you not trying or criticising you then you wonder, 'What gives you that right to do that?'.

"It's a fine line. Social media is so direct. It gives great access for fans and can be a great tool to give insight. People love seeing those things they don't see but some take it as if it makes them experts.

"I'll always find it strange that people will write something they wouldn't be prepared to say to someone's face.

"It confuses me how you can put yourself through all that hard work and pain that no one sees and then you drop a high ball or miss a two-on-one and you get hammered for it.

"I'm not taking romance away from professional sport. I've been very lucky in my career to have highs and have lows. But the first couple of years as a professional are the honeymoon years.  

"When I think of who I am, rugby is a big part of that. I wouldn't have the friends I do without rugby. It's like anything. When it's good, it's good, when it's bad, it's bad. But it's a sport, a job. It's not going to change anyone's life."