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Rob Howley praises George North as Wales dent Ireland's Six Nations title hopes

Rob Howley praised "world-class" George North after his two tries helped Wales overcome Ireland to leave England one win away from retaining the RBS 6 Nations title.

North was among those players singled out for heavy criticism following Wales' second-half surrender to Scotland at Murrayfield two weeks ago.

But the 24-year-old British and Irish Lions winger shone as Ireland were beaten 22-9 in Cardiff on Friday night, North's double giving him 30 tries in 68 Test appearances.

Ireland had needed victory to set up a potential title decider in Dublin next week.

But England will now secure Six Nations silverware for a second successive season if they beat Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

"He's a quality, world-class international player," Wales interim coach Howley said of North.

"We all have bad games and George is the first one to put his hand up after the Scotland game.

"He said: 'Look I need to do better' and he certainly did that.

"He showed ambition, he had a number of touches and when he gets five metres out, he's very difficult to stop.

"We want him on the ball as often as possible and Liam Williams on the other side made some important tackles as well."

Wales had been at risk of losing three consecutive matches in the championship for the first time since 2007.

After losing to England and Scotland, there had been a clamour for changes from some sections of the public and the Welsh media.

But Howley responded by keeping faith with the side which had lost 29-13 at Murrayfield, after being 13-9 ahead at half-time, with skipper Alun Wyn Jones insisting the only pressure on the team had come from within.

"I don't think it was about proving a point to anyone outside the camp," Jones said.

"We were hurting and I think the selection has been done before in terms of repeat selections.

"I think we answered the questions from the coaches.

"There are still parts to improve on, but we can be pleased with what we did without the ball.

"We defended well at the set-piece and when we get the ball we probably need to keep it longer. But on the whole we can be happy."

Ireland retain slim title hopes, but it would need an improbable set of results for that to happen.

Scotland must win at Twickenham for the first time since 1983 but then lose at home to Italy on the final weekend, while Ireland would then have to beat England in Dublin.

"We've got to take this on the chin, we can't afford to wallow in our own self-pity," Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said.

"We've got to turn it around and make sure we convert that into something positive next week.

"We have still got a chance to finish in the top half of the championship, even with France and Scotland playing well, Wales bouncing back and England obviously playing really well.

"I said seven weeks ago that this is going to be the most competitive championship, and that's been shown by England scrambling to wins over Wales and France."

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