NZ Rugby Prolong Sam McNicol's Return

NZ Rugby Prolong Sam McNicol's Return

One of the Chiefs most promising young backs, Sam McNicol will spend the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup season and the 2019 Super Rugby season on the sidelines.

Hawke's Bay coach Mark Ozich says Sam McNicol's prolonged absence from rugby due to concussion will at least extend to almost two years because New Zealand Rugby are cautiously "holding him back". 


The Chiefs utility back was not included in Hawke's Bay's 2018 squad announced on Wednesday. McNicol, who is contracted with the Chiefs through to 2019, hasn't played at all this year because of ongoing concussion issues and his last competitive outing was for Hawke's Bay last October.


Ozich said the 22-year-old is "symptom-free" and has been cleared to play, but revealed he would be held back from potentially returning to the fray until next year's Mitre 10 Cup.

It means McNicol will miss the 2019 Super Rugby season after suffering multiple head knocks in the last three years.


"Even though he's feeling good and he's been cleared from a medical point of view, New Zealand Rugby are holding him back to make sure he's given time to recover and [they] are not rushing him back," Ozich told Stuff on Thursday.

"He's still young, and with his wellbeing and his future in mind, the consensus is to hold him back for another six months to make sure he comes back and has every opportunity to have longevity in the game, if he comes back."


Ozich said McNicol was confident of playing again despite the concussion nightmare that has dogged his young career.

"He's training with the guys, he's doing the skill and condition work, so he's a part of training, although he's not [involved] in contact areas, but he's keeping fresh and keeping his skills honed.

"He's really hungry to play but he still understands that erring on the side of caution at this stage is probably [best]."

After one appearance for the Hurricanes in 2015, when he picked up a concussion in what was his Super Rugby debut, he then fractured his eye socket when playing in a pre-season game for Wellington that year.


McNicol joined the Chiefs in 2016 but an ankle injury kept him on ice before he became a regular in the side in and around two concussions he sustained at training.

But in his last appearance in 2016, McNicol suffered yet another concussion as the Chiefs lost their semi-final against the Hurricanes and it meant he missed all of Hawke's Bay's Mitre 10 Cup campaign that year after signing for the Magpies from Wellington.

McNicol was back playing for the Chiefs in April last year and told Stuff then he had turned to brain training to try and combat his long-running concussion battle after four head knocks in six months.


"The symptoms just lingered," he said. "So I missed all of Mitre 10 Cup [in 2016 having signed with Hawke's Bay] due to that.

"Then it was my first return to contact session from that concussion, in January, and I had a head clash with someone, and it set me back another six to eight weeks."

Then another blow to the head sustained in Fiji against the Crusaders last May ended his involvement in the 2017 Super Rugby season.


McNicol returned again later that year when turning out for Hawke's Bay but more problems with concussions would rule him out of action in 2018. McNicol will be part of Hawke's Bay's coaching staff in 2018.


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