WALES boss Warren Gatland has offered George North an early return home if the winger feels unwanted by Northampton, writes Chris Kirwan.

The Lions speedster is leaving the Saints in the summer after signing a national dual contract with the Welsh Rugby Union, his region yet to be decided.

The 25-year-old has been recalled to the national XV for Sunday’s Six Nations encounter with Italy in Cardiff after missing his club’s Aviva Premiership game with Sale Sharks last weekend.

Following that loss at Franklin’s Gardens, interim Northampton boss Alan Gaffney suggested that North had not wanted to feature despite the fixture being outside the Test window.

The winger was understood to have been angered at being made a scapegoat for the struggling Saints, who are languishing at the wrong end of the Premiership.

Gatland said: “The message I have said to George is, if he wants to come home quicker than next season we will look after him.

“We are here for him. He knows if he isn’t comfortable in that environment, we will support him and the Union will support him 100 per cent for whatever happens with him.

“I understand from Northampton’s perspective, they are under their own pressure in terms of trying to get things back on track.

“George has given a huge amount of commitment to them in the first place by leaving Wales to go up there.

“He has enjoyed his time there, I know. It’s a great club with fantastic facilities.

“He has always talked hugely positively about his time up there and just how great the club and fans have been.”

Gatland was asked if he felt Gaffney had unfairly singled out North and responded: “Coaches do their own thing. I don’t have any problem with that. I can’t comment on the Northampton situation.

“I just know that George North picked up a slight hip-flexor injury against Ireland when he came on.

“That was treated by our medical staff, and we communicated that to Northampton. He went back up there and was treated by their medical team.

“So I understand when we sent him back, he had a slight injury. What happened after that I’m not too sure. He is OK now, which is why he has been selected.”