Aviva Premiership: Wales block George North return to Saints

Northampton winger will remain in camp with Wales rather than line up for his club against Bath at the weekend

Northampton Saints will have to make do without star winger George North when they face Bath on Saturday.

After recovering from concussion picked up after two head knocks in Wales’s RBS 6 Nations defeat to England on 6 February, the 22-year-old had been been talked up to line up at Bath in the Aviva Premiership.

Northampton talked about having an opportunity to play George, but we feel we need to keep him with us.

Rob Howley

Saints forwards coach Dorian West suggested on Wednesday that North would not return and that was confirmed by Wales assistant coach Rob Howley, who revealed on Thursday that North will not be released to the club.

While Bath have loosehead prop Paul James available for selection, and Wales’ other England-based players have returned to their clubs for this weekend’s action, North agreed a full release clause when he joined the Saints from the Scarlets in 2013.

The unique clause means the decision rests with the national selectors rather than the club.

“George is fully recovered, but the terms of his contract with Northampton give him full release for Wales and he is staying with us,” said Howley.

“Northampton talked about having an opportunity to play George, but we feel we need to keep him with us.

“He could only have played against Bath if we had agreed to release him.”

North missed Wales’ dramatic 26-23 win over Scotland last week, but is in contention to return when they travel to France next weekend.

Head coach Warren Gatland faces a tough decision over whether to again drop Scarlets star Liam Williams, who impressed against Scotland and has been in form for his region, or leave out North or Cardiff Blues wing Alex Cuthbert, who has come under a lot of criticism for his recent poor performances.

“Liam played particularly well at the weekend, he has the ability to beat a player and his work-rate off the ball was very good,” Howley added.

“It will be a huge selection.”

MORE: Six Nations 2015: France lock Pascal Pape hits out at 10-week ban for kneeing Jamie Heaslip in the back

MORE: Six Nations 2015: Rugby World Cup finalist Paul Sackey discusses concussions

MORE: Aviva Premiership: Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter believes Michele Campagnaro can add ‘X-factor’ to their backline next season

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