Mark Orders column: Northampton should not allow George North to play in fourth autumn Test
NORTHAMPTON Saints should think long and hard about any request that comes in to release George North for Wales's fourth autumn international, and then do the right thing.
They should dip into the nearest thesaurus and tell whomever is on the other end of the line to get lost, beat it, push off, run along or any of the other variations of go and take a running jump which may or may not include extra advice on locating the nearest cliff.
We will assume if the call is made it will come from the Welsh Rugby Union.
In which case the advice to Northampton still stands.
The potential problem here is all down to an extra game being wedged in outside the IRB's international window.
A recent list of things that should be banned immediately offered up child beauty pageants, detox diets and offensive comments bolted on the end of online blogs.
Self-taken pictures in bathrooms, aka selfies, were also on there.
Sorry, narcissists who snap themselves in various states of undress with their own showers and toilets as a backdrop may have psychological issues to deal with, and nut-jobs who pour out bile on the internet can join them in the queue for counselling.
But for this column, the fourth autumn international for Wales remains out on its own as the thing that should be done away with first, preferably before you've finished reading this sentence.
That and Pat & Cabbage, a TV sitcom that is about as funny as earache.
Don't just take this column's word for it. Not about Pat & Cabbage — that's an issue for another day and another page, one that houses the obituaries, hopefully.
The extra November Test has been the bane of a many a regional coach's life for a number of years. And many players would probably rather subject their bodies to just the three successive internationals, given the massive physical toll each one takes in the modern era. Gwyn Jones once reckoned that it took until the Wednesday after a Saturday Test for a player to start getting back to normal, physically and mentally. He was speaking in 1997. Since then players have bulked up, the hits have got bigger and so have the bruises.
But every November the WRU looks to squeeze in an extra game a week before the third round of European matches with all the consequences for Welsh teams' hopes of progressing to the knockout stages.
Last term, the Ospreys went to France to face Toulouse on the back of one-and-a-half training sessions.
This term, they play Castres just six days after Wales face Australia.
By the time rest, recovery and travelling are factored in, they'll be lucky to have more than one decent session.
Let's return to Northampton and the debate over whether they should happily release North.
They play an away game against Worcester Warriors on November 30 and head into a home Heineken Cup encounter against Leinster the following Saturday.
Presumably, they would want one of the most valued players in world rugby available for the league encounter and fully fit and daisy-fresh for the European match. There is an argument that Saints would risk alienating North by stopping him playing for his country.
Fair enough. But another way of looking at it is that marquee signings need to be available throughout the year and Northampton haven't paid a lot of money for North to watch him swan off to play a match outside the international window during a busy period for the club.
Maybe we are doing the WRU a disservice here and have overlooked the possibility that all this could be part of a dastardly master plan to derail English hopes in Europe.
On the other hand, that's probably doling out credit where it isn't deserved. There are no evil geniuses in the WRU. No Bond villains. No one who could be called a mastermind, for good or ill.
Ultimately, this one will boil down to money — what doesn't in modern rugby? But Northampton have splashed out hundreds of thousands of pounds on North and are entitled to make a stand if they want.
The fourth autumn international causes more problems than its worth.
Last year, defeat in it actually cost Wales their place in the top eight seeds for the World Cup and left them in a pool of death for 2015. Every campaign it risks damaging the regions' hopes in the competition where the wider world judges them.
There has to be another way to generate extra money.