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Wales monitoring Cuthbert fitness

Alex Cuthbert could make a surprise return to the Wales team for next Saturday's autumn series finale against Australia.

The British and Irish Lions wing suffered an ankle injury while on Heineken Cup duty for Cardiff Blues last month which ruled him out of Wales' November appointments with South Africa, Argentina and Tonga.

However, Cuthbert is currently training with Wales and assistant coach Shaun Edwards has delivered an encouraging fitness bulletin ahead of the Wallabies clash.

"Alex has been monitored by the Blues staff and by us over the last number of weeks," Edwards said.

"We have not officially called him into the squad yet but he is training with us and he is just being assessed. Fingers crossed he could potentially, maybe, be fit but we will just have to wait and see.

"You always want your best players fit and Alex is basically a player who has scored the winning tries in the last two Six Nations.

"So he is certainly a player we are very interested in, if he is fit, in being available for selection at the weekend."

Cuthbert's fellow wing George North, meanwhile, is also part of preparations this week despite the Australia game falling outside the International Rugby Board's autumn window and clubs not being obliged to release their players for Test duty.

Wales and Bath prop Paul James has returned to the Recreation Ground, with Perpignan pair James Hook and Luke Charteris now back in France ahead of next Friday's Top 14 appointment with Clermont Auvergne.

North joined Aviva Premiership club Northampton for the start of this season, although Wales have consistently said their understanding is that North's Saints contract permits international release outside of the autumn window.

"George is here, yes. He had it (release) written in his contract," Edwards said.

"He is definitely one of our strike players and we are more than happy to see him on the wing for us, or whichever position he plays."

Wales have lost their last eight Tests against Australia - although half of those losses were by three points or less - while a 2008 victory over the Wallabies remains their solitary success at the expense of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa during Gatland's 59-Test reign.

Saturday's encounter also has added spice given that Wales and Australia - together with England - are in the same 2015 World Cup pool.

"It is the last hit-out before the Six Nations," Edwards said.

"I would say that every game has got relevance, in particular because Australia are our opponents (at the World Cup).

"I think we've improved a lot since 2009, when they gave us a right walloping at the Millennium Stadium. We have progressively got closer to them and both teams will be totally motivated for the game itself, but also to put a marker down for the World Cup.

"Let's be honest, I think this is a game everyone has been waiting for. Let's make no bones about it. South Africa was a massive game for us against a world-class opponent and I thought we did exceedingly well in that game.

"But I think at the back of the mind everyone realises that Wales versus Australia have been brilliant games recently, so close, so competitive, such a high standard of rugby.

"I thought Australia played very well against England (three weeks ago). I thought they were incredibly unfortunate to lose that game.

"But England were resilient and all that matters is what the scoreboard says at the end of the game and England came up with the win.

"Towards the end of the Rugby Championship this year, they (Australia) were running tries in for fun. We are very aware of their attacking prowess.

"Israel (Folau) at the back is a great operator and the two half-backs have a great understanding between each other. We are under no illusions.

"It is going to be a real high quality Test match. I think we are in better shape physically than we were last year. Roll on Saturday."


From Belfast Telegraph