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George North injury fears played down by Northampton

Wales wing pulls out of Northampton squad just before kick-off against Sale.

Northampton interim head coach Alan Dickens says George North’s withdrawal before his side’s 24-20 win over Sale in the Anglo-Welsh Cup was “a precautionary measure”.

Wales wing North was named in the Saints starting line-up but pulled out before kick-off, raising fears the 25-year-old had suffered a recurrence of a long-term knee injury.

The British and Irish Lions star has not started a game since October but Dickens eased concerns over North’s fitness after the Sharks clash.

“George North pulled out just before kick-off,” Dickens told the Northampton Chronicle. “He was just tight so it was a precautionary measure to hold him back.”

Warren Gatland’s injury-hit Wales face Scotland in the first game of the NatWest 6 Nations next Saturday.

Dickens added: “He’s probably had a tough week training with Wales. It was unfortunate, a last-minute withdrawal so not ideal.”

Northampton’s victory, earned by Nafi Tuitavake’s last-minute score, means they will go into the final game of the group phase as favourites to qualify from Pool 3.

They now reside on 10 points and will secure their passage into the knockout stages should they defeat Harlequins next week.

Dickens said: “What pleased me most was that we stuck in, we went through the phases at the end, we were patient and we scored, so it’s a fantastic result.”

Northampton’s victory over the Sharks helped eliminate the hosts from the competition.

That result, combined with Quins’ triumph over the Scarlets, took the Londoners six points clear of the Greater Manchester outfit in Pool 2.

Sale’s director of rugby Steve Diamond was disappointed that they were unable to emerge victorious on Saturday but was pleased with the effort of their academy players.

“(Cameron) Redpath, (Kieran) Wilkinson and Luke James did really well, some positives were there, but we probably should have won the game,” he said.

“I’m not too despondent and fair play to Northampton, for them to rock up with their full-strength side, or £10million-worth, good luck to them.

“They were singing as if they’ve just won the league in the changing rooms there so good on them, we will just get ourselves ready for London Irish in the league.

“Northampton have obviously got their backsides into gear a little bit and fair play to them for playing the full 80 minutes, and scoring in the end.”

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