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Wales remain hopeful George North can prove fitness

Published 25/10/2016

Wales are hopeful George North will prove his fitness for the autumn opener against Australia by playing for Northampton Saints on Friday.
Wales are hopeful George North will prove his fitness for the autumn opener against Australia by playing for Northampton Saints on Friday.

Wales are hopeful British and Irish Lions wing George North will be able to prove his fitness for Northampton Saints this weekend.

North forms part of a worrying Wales injury list ahead of their opening autumn international against Australia in Cardiff on November 5.

Scarlets trio Liam Williams, Jake Ball and Scott Williams are also fitness doubts for Rob Howley's return in charge with Warren Gatland on Lions leave ahead of next summer's tour of New Zealand.

North damaged a hand during Northampton's European Champions Cup defeat to Castres last weekend, but the Wales management have been told the 24-year-old could feature in the Saints' Aviva Premiership clash with Gloucester on Friday.

"We're in dialogue with the Saints and he (North) is working hard to be fit for the weekend," Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde said.

Full-back Williams (ankle) and lock forward Ball (rib) both picked up injuries in the Scarlets' Champions Cup defeat at Saracens on Saturday.

Centre Williams withdrew ahead of that game with an ankle problem.

"Liam hasn't been ruled out of the Australia match yet, we're working hard with the medics to see how he reacts to that," McBryde said.

"The same goes for Jake with his rib injury. It's pretty sore and it's quite hard to determine how long they're going to take.

"The same can be said for Scott but he's back running and training."

Taulupe Faletau definitely misses the Australia game with a knee injury, but Wales are confident the Bath number eight will play some part in an autumn series which also features games against Argentina, Japan and South Africa.

Meanwhile, McBryde welcomed Premiership Rugby's decision to release players for international matches on November 5.

The Premiership do not usually release non-English players for matches outside the official World Rugby international window, but on Monday they agreed to do so for the weekend of November 4-6 - describing the one-off move as a "gesture of flexibility".

England-based quintet North, Jamie Roberts, Luke Charteris, Ross Moriarty and Tomas Francis are all now available for the Australia game and will join up with the squad on Monday.

"It's a positive," McBryde said. "It's great news for us because that means we can have a week's good preparation with players who will hopefully be involved in that first game.

"It also highlights that players are in the worst position, the tug of war that exists between international and club rugby.

"But anything to make a players' life any easier (is good).

"Everyone is aware we play a load of rugby and we have got one of the smallest playing bases.

"We've got to look after what we have and do that better than other countries who perhaps have got quite a bit of depth."

McBryde also confirmed that some players would be released back to the Welsh regions this weekend.

There has been disquiet in Wales over the scheduling of Guinness PRO12 derby fixtures between the Cardiff Blues and Scarlets and Ospreys and Newport-Gwent Dragons on the eve of the first autumn international.

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