Northampton Saints could face a fine from Premiership Rugby after agreeing to release Wales star George North for international duty, despite the fixture against Australia falling outside the official IRB window.
North, who joined Saints from the Scarlets over the summer, has a clause in his contract that stipulates he can be released for all international matches, including those that fall outside of the window. Premiership Rugby’s policy, however, states that no non-England qualified players shall be released for those camps or matches.
The matter is to be investigated over the coming days, with the most likely outcome being a fine for the East Midlands club.
Elsewhere in the squad, fellow Lions wing Alex Cuthbert could make a surprise and welcome return to the starting line-up after returning to training with the squad in the Vale of Glamorgan yesterday. Cuthbert has made a quicker recovery than expected, after being told that he would miss the entire autumn series when he injured his ankle in a Heineken Cup game against Toulon.
It was welcome news for Warren Gatland and his Wales coaches, who have been without several top players for some or all of the four test series.
Shaun Edwards, Wales’ defence coach, said: “Scott Williams is progressing well, so is Liam Williams, James King has come into the squad and Alex Cuthbert is with us, being monitored by the Blues staff and by us. We have not officially called him into the squad yet, but he is being assessed.
“Obviously, fingers crossed, he may be fit. You always want your best players fit and Alex is a player who basically scored the winning try in the last two Six Nations.”
Wales go in search of ending a horrific run against the Southern Hemisphere’s big three, that has seen them lose their last 17 games against them.
“It is frustrating, but we have to play for 80 minutes, we cannot switch off, mentally or physically,” said Edwards, who was alongside Gatland in Melbourne and Sydney last year when Wales came within a whisker of winning on both occasions, losing 25-23 and 20-19. ”
Tactically we have to be absolutely perfect. The problem when you are playing against sides like this is that any crack or any part of the game you are poor in, they will exploit it.”
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