Justin Tipuric reveals Welsh are going the extra mile
Justin Tipuric believes that Wales' pre-World Cup training schedule is the toughest he has experienced in his rugby career.
Wales' punishing preparations for a so-called pool of death - they are in the same group as former World Cup winners England and Australia, with only two teams making the quarter-finals - have seen them visit Switzerland and Qatar for intensive training camps.
And after making a powerful statement with their fitness at the last World Cup four years ago - Wales reached a first semi-final since 1987 - head coach Warren Gatland has again overseen a demanding itinerary.
"The training has been harder than 2011," Ospreys flanker Tipuric said. "It's tough - the toughest training I have experienced, without a doubt. But it is what you expect. You are going to a World Cup and you don't expect it to be easy.
"We were fit in 2011 but you want to be fitter again, so you have to push it further. Qatar with the heat and Switzerland with the altitude are different kinds of things that we are not used to."
Wales open their three-Test World Cup warm-up programme against Millennium Stadium visitors Ireland on Saturday, when 31-times-capped Tipuric is expected to line up in a team that could see international bows for the likes of Ross Moriarty, Gareth Anscombe and Tyler Morgan.
Gatland has indicated that his current 40-plus training group could be whittled down to 36-38 next week - his final 31-man World Cup squad is set for an August 31 announcement - as the tournament countdown gathers pace.
Tipuric, who is widely expected to make the final cut, missed out in 2011 after playing in a warm-up fixture against Argentina, so he knows how high the stakes are.
"I was young and Martyn (Williams) was still about and Andy Powell, Ryan Jones and people like that were still there," he said.
"I had just come through my first season and to make the training camp was something I didn't think would happen.
"To get there was something special, but when you are in the training squad you want to be part of the World Cup proper and it was a bit disappointing to miss out. Doing all the training over the past few weeks brought back how hard it all was."
Meanwhile, Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins has delivered an upbeat bulletin on George North.
North missed the final 10 weeks of last season after being concussed for a third time in five months. And while Jenkins believes it is unlikely that the 23-year-old, who has scored 22 tries during a 49-cap Wales career, will be involved on Saturday, North continues to make progress.
"George has been doing most of the stuff with the rest of the guys," Jenkins said. "He is still picking up on a few things, and that's to do with the medical staff.
"But he is going pretty well at this moment in time, and has done a lot of skills and a fair bit of rugby stuff. He is looking in pretty good shape, so I am sure three weeks down the road he could be involved in the Dublin game (against Ireland)."
International: Millennium Stadium, Saturday 2.30 pm