George North set to be ruled out of England clash as Wales call on Alex Cuthbert to replace injured wing

Cithbert has not scored a try for Wales in his last 11 appearances

Jack de Menezes
Friday 10 February 2017 11:32
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George North looks set to miss Wales's Six Nations clash with England
George North looks set to miss Wales's Six Nations clash with England

George North is losing his battle to be fit for Saturday’s Six Nations encounter between Wales and England, with Alex Cuthbert set to replace the wing after being retained with the squad.

North was named in the starting line-up for Saturday’s clash in Cardiff that see two of the three unbeaten Six Nations teams go head-to-head. Along with fly-half Dan Biggar, North was a major injury doubt heading into the match, having suffered a dead leg during the 33-7 victory over Italy in Rome last weekend.

The haematoma on his right leg did not prevent the giant 24-year-old rampaging 70m in the final minute of the match to score Wales’ third try, but the Northampton Saints back was in evident discomfort and has been an injury concern for head coach Rob Howley all week leading up to one of the biggest games in this year’s Six Nations championship.

Reports in Wales on Friday morning claim that North has already lost the race to prove his fitness, with Cuthbert called up in his place.

If North misses out, Wales will lose his considerable finishing ability as well as his vast experience despite his younger years. With a record of 28 tries in 66 matches, plus two tries in three British and Irish Lions caps, North has proven himself as one of the most lethal finishers in world rugby.

North’s absence, should it be confirmed ahead of the game, would lead to a recall for Cardiff Blues wing Cuthbert, despite his loss of form over the last year. The 26-year-old has not scored for his country since the World Cup warm-up defeat by Ireland in August 2015, having gone 11 appearances without crossing the whitewash.

Howley’s other options are somewhat limited, with Scarlets wing Steff Evans a possibility. However, the 22-year-old has not yet made his Wales debut, and only represented the Under-20 side on one occasion in 2014.

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Ashton Hewitt, the other uncapped option in Howley’s squad, is unavailable after suffering a concussion, though Howley could rejig his backline by moving Leigh Halfpenny to the wing and naming replacement fly-half Sam Davies at 15, having played there for the Ospreys against Grenoble, the Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons in December.

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