South Africa v Wales: Warren Gatland sweats on George North fitness

South Africa v Wales: Warren Gatland admits losing George North to illness would be a blow ahead of first Test

Wales wing George North Photo: WRU

Warren Gatland has admitted it will be a “big loss” if winger George North fails to make Saturday’s first Test with South Africa in Durban.

The Wales head coach has named the Northampton Saints star in his starting XV, but a virus has kept the 22-year-old out of action this week, including Tuesday’s warm-up match against the Eastern Province Kings in Port Elizabeth where he was withdrawn from the match-day 23 and travelled in isolation to the rest of the squad to their base in Umhlanga.

It would be a big loss if he doesn’t make it. He has been playing some pretty good rugby at a high level recently, so we are hoping he will come through

Warren Gatland

Wales will give North as much time as possible to recover before making a decision based on the advice of medics, but the New Zealander conceded that their danger man is struggling.

“George felt a bit nauseous on Tuesday and he has unfortunately had a bit of diarrhoea and stuff, so he has been in his room and had food taken up to him,” Gatland said.

“He is making slow progress but we will make a decision on him on Friday, or even later.

“We are aware that even if he does take the field he is probably going to struggle a bit for 80 minutes. I am taking the advice of the medics. They say he is improving and we are hopeful he will be a lot better by tomorrow morning.

“It would be a big loss if he doesn’t make it. He has been playing some pretty good rugby at a high level recently, so we are hoping he will come through.”

If North fails to recover in time, Gatland will have to decide whether to hand a debut to 20-year-old Scarlets star Jordan Williams on the wing or Bristol’s versatile back Matthew Morgan from the bench to full-back for his senior international debut with Liam Williams slotting in on the wing.

Gloucester outside-half James Hook, who can also play full-back, could also be in contention.

“If he doesn’t pull through, it would be someone else’s opportunity,” Gatland added.

“We will probably go with Jordan or there is an option with Liam Williams and playing Matthew Morgan at full-back. Cory Allen could come on the bench as well. Obviously George covers midfield as well and we need to think of that in terms of who would cover that area.”

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