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North hoping to get even better

George North is scheming to become just as dangerous without the ball as he is with it during Wales' Six Nations campaign.

The British and Irish Lions wing is aiming to master the art of creating holes as well as simply punching them, by honing his tactical play off the ball.

Wales open the 2015 Six Nations by hosting England in Cardiff on Friday, February 6, and North is determined to scale new heights.

England boss Stuart Lancaster will doubtless bring North's famed power running into his defensive planning, but may now have to consider another element to the 22-year-old's threat.

"One massive thing I think I've realised now is that yes, sometimes I can be very effective with ball in hand, but I can be just as effective without the ball," North told Press Association Sport.

"So it's not necessarily all about being the ball-carrier, it's just as much about being the dummy runner off that at different points.

"That can open massive holes for other people.

"That's another string to my bow.

"Everyone wants ball in hand, but sometimes you've got to think to yourself, actually for the team it's better to get other runners on the ball and use me as a dummy runner.

"Sometimes those games come, but it's just knowing when I'm best used as a strike runner or as a dummy runner.

"And that's something another thing to add to the list of things to work on."

North has rocketed to world renown since making his Wales debut in November 2010.

The former Scarlets wing is already closing in on 50 Test caps, while also boasting a Lions series win from the 2013 Australia tour.

North missed Wales' 12-6 victory over South Africa in November with concussion, an enforced break that also brought a rare period of reflection.

The Northampton Saints flyer still believes he has plenty of room for improvement, admitting to benefiting from working closely with club coaches Jim Mallinder and Alex King.

"My mother said to me the other day, that was the first Test match I'd missed for 18, 19 months," said North, speaking on behalf of Land Rover, a Rugby World Cup 2015 partner.

"I took a step back and only then realised that was right.

"It just feels like since I hit 18 I don't feel like I've stopped, just gone bang, bang, bang from one thing to another.

"And it's a whirlwind.

"There's been good and bad, but mainly good, and that's something I've tried to hold onto.

"I've just got to work as hard as I can to stay there.

"The more I play, the more I learn and improve my awareness.

"So I know where I'm most effective, and least wanted from an opposition point of view.

"The more I play the more I get this high level of rugby under my belt, I think it's going to stand me in good stead for a couple of years' time when I start getting towards my peak time I think.

"Jim Mallinder and Alex King have been great, Alex has come along and brought a different mindset from what I was used to.

"So it's been refreshing working with them, and they certainly push you to improve."

Victory over South Africa ended a mixed autumn for Wales, but North still believes Warren Gatland's side will reap the benefit at this year's World Cup.

"I think we learned more from this autumn than any other," said North.

"Going close to Australia and New Zealand then getting a scalp on South Africa.

"We put ourselves under a lot of pressure by doing a lot of conditioning work.

"We pushed ourselves and still performed under massive fatigue.

"And I think that will stand us in great stead for the World Cup, with games coming thick and fast."

:: George North is a Land Rover ambassador. Keep up to date with the latest Land Rover rugby activity by following @LandRoverRugby on Twitter.

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