Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

North frustrated following defeat

Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny is helped from the field at Twickenham after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the 29-18 defeat against England

George North has described Wales' failed RBS 6 Nations campaign as "massively frustrating".

Wales' two-year reign as Six Nations champions came to an emphatic end at Twickenham, where a 29-18 defeat against England buried hopes of achieving an unprecedented title hat-trick.

Despite beating France and Italy, Wales suffered comprehensive losses to championship challengers England and Ireland, conceding 55 points and not scoring a try across those two games.

Next Saturday's Millennium Stadium appointment with Scotland will bring the curtain down on a dismal tournament for North and company as Wales wind up their European season prior to tackling a demanding two-Test challenge away against South Africa in June.

And life will not get any easier with next season's autumn schedule, given that South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are all on Wales' November agenda.

"It has been massively frustrating," Northampton wing North said.

"We should be focusing on performing week in, week out, but we have been up and down.

"In one sense it is good to get it out of the way ahead of a big year next year. We have just got to make sure we are consistently playing well, and hopefully we can go out all guns blazing against Scotland.

"We have a short turnaround now. We have to regroup and focus on finishing well against Scotland."

North was guilty of wasting a glorious try-scoring chance for Wales when he kicked, rather than passed, to an unmarked Dan Lydiate outside him, and only full-back Leigh Halfpenny's prodigious goalkicking seriously threatened England's domination.

"I don't think we weren't there emotionally, emotions were good. We have just got to step up straightaway," North added.

"We came for the win, and it is bitterly disappointing that we didn't. We had chances, but accuracy let us down.

"As an individual, you learn you have to take your chances. I have learned a lot recently, but when it comes to crucial times you have got to step up and make that pass or off-load.

"It is one of those where you have to look at yourself this week and show character and look to push on and finish well, instead of feeling sorry for yourself and licking your wounds.

"We knew England were the team to beat - the form team - and they showed why. They showed a good variation in their game."

Wales coach Warren Gatland is due to announce his line-up on Thursday for the Scotland clash.

Halfpenny, who dislocated his shoulder preventing a second Luther Burrell try for England, is likely to be replaced by Liam Williams, while fly-half Dan Biggar, scrum-half Mike Phillips, prop Paul James and flanker Justin Tipuric are also potential starters.

Wales have not beaten by Scotland in Cardiff since 2002, when hooker Gordon Bulloch's try double underpinned a 27-22 away win, and Gatland's team will start as favourites to extend that sequence despite misfiring badly for much of the Six Nations campaign.

Reflecting on Halfpenny's absence, his fellow British and Irish Lion North said: "It is unfortunate for Leigh.

"He is world-class, and if it wasn't for his boot we would have been in a very different place.

"He puts his heart and soul into the game. He put his shoulder in there to stop the try, there was a big collision and he wiped himself out.

"Hopefully, God-speed with his recovery, but we will have to move around and chop and change for Saturday.

"We need a bit more variation in certain aspects, using our forwards to build a platform to play off instead of manufacturing something that is not necessarily there.

"From our point of view, it is a hard lesson, but a lesson we have to learn to move forward."

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