Wales wing George North: Injury comeback was never an issue
Wales wing George North will make his first Millennium Stadium appearance for almost six months on Saturday after he "ticked all the boxes" on a long comeback trail from injury.
North played the full 80 minutes of last weekend's impressive World Cup warm-up victory against reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Ireland in Dublin as Wales increased their tournament preparations.
It marked the 23-year-old Northampton wing's return to competitive action after he suffered three concussions last season, and he is now looking for a stylish World Cup send-off when Wales host Italy in their last game before facing opening Pool A opponents Uruguay later this month.
"For me, it was never a big issue about returning to play," North said.
"I have done everything properly and have ticked all the boxes, and I knew I could go out there and give it my all.
"You have got to focus on making sure you are fit and well. I knew I would come back, it was just a matter of getting it right. I was just delighted to be back playing.
"I was advised well from minute one by Wales and Northampton - they were both excellent with me. I saw the right people and they made the decision I wouldn't play again until last Saturday. And it has worked well."
The last time North tackled Italy, he claimed his first Test hat-trick of tries as Wales reduced the Azzurri to ruins in Rome on a frantic final day of the 2015 Six Nations.
North's current Wales tally of 22 touchdowns is bettered by just three players - Shane Williams, Gareth Thomas and Ieuan Evans - and he will be a major World Cup strike weapon in the attempt to emerge from a fearsome group that also includes hosts England and twice-world champions Australia.
"For me, I can never score enough tries and the more I score it's always brilliant," he added.
"It is my job to score tries and if I don't then the finger will be pointed at me. Especially at the World Cup, you want to be focused on doing the best you can and scoring tries is my job.
"It is just about playing well on Saturday, going in with our plays and making sure we execute everything well. Points are always good, but for us it's our last dress-rehearsal before the group stages and we want to come out of it firing."
Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made five changes following the 16-10 Aviva Stadium success, with skipper Sam Warburton making his first start of the warm-up schedule while there are also opportunities for centre Cory Allen, locks Jake Ball and Dominic Day, and flanker James King.
For Allen, Saturday's game represents a chance to show his Test credentials, winning a third cap 10 months after the last one and completing the recovery process from a dislocated shoulder suffered earlier this year.
"My shoulder is strong and ready to go for Italy," said Allen, who will offer important midfield back-up during the World Cup to Scott Williams and Jamie Roberts.
"I knew the time-frame was about four months after the shoulder operation. The surgeon assured me it's not going to dislocate again.
"I've had a bone-blocker put in now so that the shoulder is stopped from coming out. It's called a Latarjet. My shoulder doesn't look any different but there's a minimal difference in my range. It doesn't affect my golf swing!"