Wales sweating on North fitness for opener against Scots

North
Wales wing George North.

Wales are hopeful that wing George North will be in the selection mix for Saturday’s NatWest 6 Nations opener against Scotland.

The Northampton player has endured an injury-hit season and is on the comeback trail from a knee problem suffered last month.

He was involved for Saints in their European Champions Cup clash against Saracens nine days ago, but withdrew from the team just before an Anglo-Welsh Cup appointment with Sale Sharks two days ago.

North has not featured for Wales since the final game of last season’s Six Nations.

Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins said: “George has trained pretty hard with us last week, and he didn’t feel quite right last Saturday. Hopefully, he will be involved for selection this week.”

A fully fit North would give Wales a timely boost, especially given their injury-riddled Six Nations preparations.

Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies, Rhys Webb and Dan Lydiate will miss the whole tournament, while the likes of Dan Biggar and Taulupe Faletau are unlikely to be available until the final two games against Italy and France in March.

Saracens star Liam Williams is thought to be another major concern, with Wales head coach Warren Gatland due to name his starting XV for the Scotland game this afternoon

The line-up looks set to be dominated by players from European Champions Cup quarter-finalists the Scarlets. It is possible they could have a double figure representation.

Rhys Patchell is the choice of many to take over from Biggar at fly-half, with Scarlets possibly providing both centres, both half-backs and the entire front-row, plus players such as full-back Leigh Halfpenny, wing Steff Evans and flanker Aaron Shingler.

“It will be the first time in a while we’ll be without Dan and (Bath fly-half) Rhys (Priestland),” Jenkins added.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the other boys to put their hands up and try to get selected. They’ve all been in fantastic form for their respective clubs and regions.”

Scotland have not beaten Wales in Cardiff since 2002, yet they will arrive at the Principality Stadium following an autumn campaign that saw them demolish Australia and run world champions New Zealand close.

“In the Six Nations, it’s important to start well,” Jenkins said. “It’s a home game and it’s one we have to win, there is no doubt about it.

“For us to get off to a winning start is massive, because if you don’t, you can end up putting yourself under massive pressure when we go to Twickenham a week later.

“We played some good rugby in the autumn and didn’t win all our games, but we are looking forward to it.

“Scotland are a very good side right now. They are very talented, unpredictable, and we have to be ready for anything on Saturday.”

Meanwhile, Scotland forward Richie Gray has been ruled out Saturday’s game with a calf injury.

 


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