Warren Gatland says Welsh rugby will "look after" George North if his Northampton career ends early.
The Wales wing's Saints contract expires at the end of this season, after which he will move back to Wales on a national dual contract.
North's selection to face NatWest 6 Nations opponents Italy this weekend comes four days on from him missing Northampton's Aviva Premiership game against Sale Sharks, after which interim Saints boss Alan Gaffney suggested the 25-year-old had not wanted to play for Northampton.
North had been released by Wales as it was a Six Nations fallow week, but he did not feature for Northampton amid reports he had an arrangement with former Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder that he would not play club rugby on rest weekends.
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."
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Former Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip has announced his retirement from the game at the age of 34.
The 95-cap international made his debut in 2006 and went on to lead the side 13 times.
Heaslip, who spent his club career with Leinster, has been struggling with back problems.
"Jamie was an intelligent and incredibly robust player," Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said of Heaslip.
"The string of trophies he contributed to is lengthy, including three European Cups, three Six Nations, including the 2009 Grand Slam and a couple of PRO12 trophies thrown in for good measure."
Northampton have announced that prop Kieran Brookes is to leave Franklin's Gardens at the end of the season.
The England-capped front row, who has never featured under Eddie Jones, has made 66 appearances for Saints since his arrival at the club in 2015 from Newcastle Falcons.
"This is a decision I have not taken lightly. I've thoroughly enjoyed my three years here at Northampton," Brookes said.
Wales international trio Jonathan Davies, Jake Ball and Gareth Davies have all signed national dual contracts with the Scarlets and Welsh Rugby Union.
The WRU announced that the Scarlets stars have put pen to paper.
Centre Jonathan Davies has taken up a contract option to remain at the Scarlets, lock Ball has signed his second dual contract at the Llanelli-based region and scrum-half Gareth Davies has agreed one for the first time.
National dual contracts are funded 60 per cent by the WRU and 40 per cent by a player's region.
Jonathan Davies and Ball are currently sidelined by injuries, but Gareth Davies was an integral part of Wales' first two NatWest 6 Nations performances against Scotland and England.
WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips voiced his satisfaction at the news.
This is another significant announcement for Welsh rugby, with three experienced internationals committing their future to the game in Wales and to the Scarlets.
It is testament to the NDCs and the environment we are creating in partnership with the regions that Jake and Jonathan have both signed extensions to their NDCs.
It is vital we retain our best talent for the future of our game on and off the field, and Gareth signing an NDC for the first time is another important commitment.
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Greig Laidlaw booted 22 points on his return to Scotland's starting line-up as Gregor Townsend's men kick-started their NatWest 6 Nations campaign with a 32-26 win over France.
The home side were under pressure to prove they were genuine contenders after being humiliated by Wales in last week's opener in Cardiff.
And they did just that, with tries from Sean Maitland and Huw Jones providing the perfect response after Teddy Thomas' blistering pace had twice cut them apart.
That left the game finely poised in the second half but Laidlaw - making his first Scotland start in a year - slotted over all eight of his kicks to breathe fresh life into Scottish championship hopes.
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