George North: Ospreys want Northampton wing for rest of season and beyond

George North
George North joined Aviva Premiership side Northampton Saints from Scarlets in 2013

Ospreys are keen to hand George North an immediate return to Welsh rugby.

The wing, 25, did not feature in Northampton Saints' Premiership defeat to Sale, with boss Alan Gaffney suggesting he did not want to play.

North is due to come back to Wales on a dual contract next season but head coach Warren Gatland said he would support an early return from Saints.

Ospreys want to add North to their injury-hit squad for the rest of the season and on a permanent basis.

North is part of Wales' Six Nations squad, but can play for Saints during the tournament's rest weekends. He was injured during Wales' defeat in Ireland but is fit to play against Italy on Sunday.

If he is involved in Wales' final match against France on 17 March, he is likely to be available for only five more matches as a Saints player.

George North
North featured as a substitute for Wales during their 12-6 defeat by England on 10 February

Speaking on BBC Radio Northampton earlier this week, Gaffney said he was "disappointed" North did not play against Sale.

"We picked a side that actually wanted to be out on the pitch and picked the best side for the game for Northampton," he said.

Gatland later added: "The message I've said to George is if he wants to come home quicker than next season then we'll look after him."

North joined Saints from Scarlets in 2013 but will return to Wales after signing a national dual contract in November.

Out of the four Welsh regions, Scarlets were allowed to speak to him first being his region of origin, while Dragons have also expressed an interest.

Cardiff Blues pulled out of the race to sign North in January and while Ospreys made no comment, they are willing to offer him a refuge until the end of the season.

North would be a welcome boost to the backs, with the retirement of wing Eli Walker, centre Ben John taking a 12-month break, and wing Keelan Giles recovering from a serious knee injury.

However, Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac does not think North will leave Northampton before the end of the season.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, he said he expects a decision on North's next move to be made after the current campaign finishes.

Wales backs coach Rob Howley says the uncertainty surrounding North's future has not affected the wing as he prepares to start against Italy on Sunday.

"He has been absolutely fine," said Howley.

"His club situation has not affected him from my perspective. He has been brilliant in training as he has always.

"If you look at his body language over the last couple of weeks against Ireland and England he has done well and deserves his start. Many people have been surprised to see him on the bench.

"If you look over the last couple of years, George has tended to do well against Italy in terms of try scoring, so hopefully we will see the best of him on the weekend."

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