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Wood sympathy for sidelined North

George North could face the "nightmare situation" of foregoing Northampton's entire Premiership play-off battle in order to salvage his World Cup campaign, according to his Saints team-mate Tom Wood.

Wales wing North is unlikely to end his concussion lay-off to feature in Northampton's Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final against Saracens on Saturday.

Saints coach Dorian West expects the 23-year-old to miss the weekend clash at Franklin's Gardens as he continues graded recovery from a concussion suffered against Wasps on March 27.

England flanker Wood revealed the depth of his sympathy for club-mate North, who he said "feels fit from the neck down".

"It must be difficult for George if you have a decision to make, in terms of looking after your head for your long-term future and your career after rugby," said Wood ahead of Saturday's Saracens shootout.

"But also with a World Cup coming around the corner, but you have to sacrifice Premiership finals and semi-finals to do it; it's a nightmare situation to be in.

"I just wish him the best of luck from a health point of view and hope he gets right: I know we're not putting any pressure on him.

"He's going through it a bit, especially at this time of the year when there are big games to play and you're not sure where you stand.

"I guess you feel good within yourself, physically he's big and strong and feels fit from the neck down. It must be a really difficult one to manage.

"I don't know where he's at in terms of return to play but we do miss him because of who he is.

"You can't replace George North but we've got quality throughout the team and players who've had game time in his absence.

"We're very confident in our resources, with the likes of Jamie Elliott and Ken Pisi."

North was stood down by neurologists following the accidental knockout blow to the head from Wasps' Nathan Hughes in Northampton's 52-30 victory at Franklin's Gardens on Friday, March 27.

North has since declared himself symptom free and is keen to return to boost the Saints' bid to defend their Premiership title.

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder last week accused Wales boss Warren Gatland of playing "mind games" after warning one more concussion could threaten North's career.

Saints forwards coach West admitted he had no idea whether North would be fit for the Premiership final on Saturday, May 30, should Northampton reach the Twickenham showpiece.

"I wouldn't have thought George would be available this weekend, no," said West.

"He's on the return to play protocols so you don't really know where he is on that, he's with the medical people.

"They do different bits and bobs each day and he'll be right when he's right.

"I haven't got a clue whether he'd make the final. It's one of those things, he's available when he's available.

"There are certain protocols they have to follow, he has to be at certain stages in different parts of the week, so it will happen when it will happen."

North's return has been the subject of great scrutiny from inside and outside Northampton, however, with Wales boss Gatland keen to see one of his star names enjoy an extended rest ahead of the autumn's World Cup.

Saints boss Mallinder dismissed Gatland's protests last week, but despite all the discussion the Franklin's Gardens star remains on the sidelines.

"There's been plenty talked about George North. I'm not really here to talk about that, he'll be right when he's right," said West.

"It's been a while since he's played anyway so nothing changes for us from what we've done in the last month or so."

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