Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Wales missed autumn target - North

George North admitted Wales fell short of their autumn targets after losing 30-26 to Australia on Saturday.

George North has admitted that Wales fell short of hitting their target in a demanding autumn Test series.

Wales wound up the November programme with a 30-26 defeat against Australia, which came three weeks after they lost 24-15 to South Africa.

Across both games, the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions conceded six tries and scored just two, with their run of defeats against major southern hemisphere opposition now standing at 18 Tests.

Those losses sandwiched comfortable victories over Argentina and Tonga, but Wales will head into this season's Six Nations title defence still without a win against the so-called 'big three' teams - New Zealand, South Africa and Australia - since 2008.

"We set a target of three out of four (autumn wins) and unfortunately didn't get that," said Wales wing North, who scored both of his team's tries against Australia, the second after he switched to centre when Owen Williams went off injured.

"Looking at the four games, we have had some good performances to push South Africa and Australia, but again we have to crack on.

"There is a lot of rugby to be played between now and the (2015) World Cup, so we can't think into it too much.

"We have to start (the Six Nations) with the same intensity as in this campaign, and I am sure we can retain the title."

Wales will launch their quest for an unprecedented hat-trick of Six Nations crowns against Italy on February 1, but question marks remain about any pedigree as genuine World Cup contenders.

Wales skipper Sam Warburton said during the build-up to facing Australia that his team cannot enjoy such exalted status until they start claiming southern hemisphere scalps, but another gilt-edged opportunity has now eluded them.

"That was exactly the type of game we knew we were going to have," added North, who opened the scoring with a 70-metre breakaway try inside two minutes.

"It was very quick and changing direction every two seconds. It was exciting, we had some great opportunities in attack and defence, but it was those little things that didn't go our way.

"We had them at the start, but our concentration levels weren't there through the whole 80 minutes. You have to close them out.

"It is frustrating because we have worked so hard and we competed well. Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong side of the result. The good thing is we are competing regularly with the top three, but to push on we have to be clinical and accurate when we have chances.

"We've shown we are competing well, but we haven't got that little edge yet. We came off the gas a little bit, and we have to be clinical. When we have them on the ropes and know we are on top of them physically, we have to push on."

North was comfortably Wales' best player, mixing it memorably with a dazzling Wallabies back division led majestically by fly-half Quade Cooper.

Even when North moved into midfield for the second half, his attacking game did not suffer, and it will intensify speculation that Wales boss Warren Gatland could decide on a centre switch for him at some point this season.

"Australia have some massive ball-players, and it was massive work for us, but to be the best you have to play against them. Quade was outstanding. It was a huge achievement to win his 50th cap, and he performed really well.

"I was happy with my own performance, but I would swap those tries for a win.

"It's always good to get a bit more experience in another position, and it is the nature of the position (centre) that you will get more ball.

"For me, it's always a privilege to be on the pitch for Wales."

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