At 23, George North has time to become one of world rugby's truly elite players. And yet, because of the damage he has taken over the past few months, the threat of enforced retirement is hanging over him according to Wales coach Warren Gatland.
The issue of concussion in sport, and rugby in particular, has certainly come to the fore over the past few years. Steps are undoubtedly being taken to improve player safety but the opening game of the Six Nations between Wales and England left a sour taste in many mouths.
After being knocked out twice, North was allowed to continue much to the condemnation of fans and officials. Little over a month later, he again lost consciousness while playing for Northampton. The impact of those collisions have certainly taken their toll and North has not played since that game against Wasps in March.
That has led many to question the winger's longterm future and his Gatland has agreed saying North should not play for his club again before the end of the season.
I had a meeting with his agent during the week and I said ‘Look if I was being purely selfish I would say: ‘George don’t play in the last few games, get yourself right for the World Cup’, because if he gets another knock he is going to have to be out for six months or a year or something like that.
With the severity of some of the hits that North has taken, Gatland does concede that there is something more important than the World Cup at play here.
He’s been out for a considerable amount of time but it’s one of those situations where he’s such a young player if he picks up two or three more of those in the next year, that’s going to finish his career, isn’t it?
A sobering thought for someone who should be making his way to the very top of the game rather than hearing whisperings of retirement every time he makes a comeback.