George North's return lifts Scarlets
GEORGE North has given the Scarlets and Wales a timely boost after returning to full training following a worrying neck injury.
The barnstorming wing was initially feared to be facing a long absence after he was stretchered off in the 47-17 defeat to Ulster earlier this month, but he is in contention to start in the Scarlets' final Heineken Cup pool match against Clermont on Saturday. Simon Easterby's men will be without Scott Williams, however, after the centre damaged his shoulder during last weekend's 33-14 loss at Leinster.
Williams is expected to be fit in time for Wales's Six Nations opener against Ireland on February 2, and he has been named in Rob Howley's squad for the tournament alongside eight other Scarlets.
Among those called up are full-back Liam Williams and back-rower Aaron Shingler, who have both been passed fit having previously been injury doubts for this weekend's home clash against Clermont.
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"We are still recovering from a game where we made a ridiculous amount of tackles," said the Scarlets' forwards coach Danny Wilson.
"Scott is a quality player and will always be missed when he is not available.
"We hope it should be a bump and it provides an opportunity for someone else.
"Shingler took part in full training on Tuesday morning and we are waiting to see if there is any reaction.
"Everyone was concerned about the bump George took in Ulster but he seems to have responded relatively well. "George being George, he has been very diligent and a good professional, so he's recovered quickly."
As well as the annual exodus of their international players, the Scarlets will also be without backs coach Mark Jones during the Six Nations.
The former Wales wing will perform the same role as a part of Howley's backroom staff, and Wilson admits his coaching colleague will be missed by the Scarlets.
"We will miss Mark. I have been very impressed by him in my short time here," he said. "He is a supremely enthusiastic coach with a lot of eye for details and gives a lot of information to the players.
Jones will return to his regional duties after the Six Nations, before rejoining the Welsh coaching staff for the tour of Japan in the summer.
"It is a huge honour for me to be called upon by Wales for the Six Nations and I am looking forward to this opportunity for me to develop further as a coach," he said.
"I am very grateful to the Scarlets for agreeing to support me in my progression as a coach and backing me to take this opportunity at international level."
The Scarlets will appoint a short-term replacement for Jones this morning, with former Ospreys coach Sean Holley strongly linked with the position.