Gatland warns North he may not start against England

Saints wing George North is not guaranteed selection against England

Saints wing George North is not guaranteed selection against England

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Wales head coach Warren Gatland believes George North should be exerting greater influence on matches and has warned the Saints wing he is not guaranteed selection against England.

North missed the 12-6 victory over South Africa last autumn with concussion and Gatland insists it will be hard to drop his replacement Liam Williams for the visit of Stuart Lancaster’s men to Cardiff in the RBS 6 Nations opener on February 6.

File photo dated 29-11-2014 of Wales' head coach Warren Gatland during the Dove Men Series match at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday January 20, 2015. Warren Gatland has revealed that a glowing recommendation from one of world rugby's outstanding coaches played its part in New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe making an unlikely journey from Super Rugby to potential Wales Test star. See PA story RUGBYU Wales. Photo credit should read Joe Giddens/PA Wire NNL-150129-112927002

File photo dated 29-11-2014 of Wales' head coach Warren Gatland during the Dove Men Series match at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday January 20, 2015. Warren Gatland has revealed that a glowing recommendation from one of world rugby's outstanding coaches played its part in New Zealand-born Gareth Anscombe making an unlikely journey from Super Rugby to potential Wales Test star. See PA story RUGBYU Wales. Photo credit should read Joe Giddens/PA Wire NNL-150129-112927002

Gatland highlights the number of 22-year-old North’s involvements in a game as an area for improvement.

“Having spoken to (Saints assistant coach) Alex King, Northampton have the same issues with George about touching the ball more,” Gatland said.

“We want to see more touches and have the ball in his hands. When he does that he is dangerous and makes some metres for us.

“We will see how training goes, but if you are a player who has won against South Africa and started the game it’s sometimes difficult to be dropped.

“We won’t sit down as a coaching team until next Monday or Tuesday and start talking about a team.

“It’s early in the week and we will see how players front up. It’s a nice position for us to be in and we have options.”

England will arrive at the Millennium Stadium with a host of injuries that has accounted for six of their first choice starting XV - Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Ben Morgan, Tom Wood, Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi.

Gatland, however, insists they remain formidable opponents even with a full treatment room.

“England have a huge amount of strength in depth in a lot of positions,” Gatland said.

“It does not matter what team they put out. They are going to be strong and we saw that last summer where they were able to put out a different team against the All Blacks and did exceptionally well. So we are expecting a really strong side.

“We had a lot of injuries last year and if you look at the Six Nations in 2014, England only made three changes, Ireland made four and we made 18.

“We are lucky this time around that we have not got too many and unfortunately England have picked up a few.

“The challenge for us is to make sure we don’t allow the injuries to become a distraction and people talk us up too much.”