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George North raring to go as Wales target maiden World Cup final place

Wales will reach their first World Cup final if they beat South Africa in Yokohama.

George North has his sights set on the World Cup final (David Davies/PA)
George North has his sights set on the World Cup final (David Davies/PA)

By Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent, Tokyo

George North admits he would struggle to find the right words if Wales reach their first Rugby World Cup final.

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The Six Nations champions will achieve that feat if they beat South Africa in Sunday’s second semi-final at Yokohama International Stadium.

North’s Test career began as an 18-year-old against the Springboks in 2010, when he marked his Wales debut by scoring two tries.

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George North had a Wales debut to remember in 2010 (David Davies/PA)

Since then, he has been part of Six Nations wins and Grand Slam successes, as well as a World Cup semi-final defeat in 2011.

And as he prepares to win his 91st cap, North knows the magnitude of Sunday’s occasion.

“I don’t think my vocabulary is good enough to describe that!” North said, when asked about the possibility of a World Cup final.

“Obviously, 2011 was incredible, 2015 we were one step off where we are now and, from our point of view, the boys are just raring to go.

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George North has enjoyed success in the Six Nations with Wales (David Davies/PA)

“We know the challenges facing us, we know how well South Africa are playing and the impact they’ve had, and I think it will be massive.

“I think this one has got a better feeling about it (than 2011).

“From our point of view, we are chuffed to be here, thrilled to be one of the last four standing.

“In 2011 we went into it as a bit of an unknown and got there by sheer determination and belief.

“The most annoying thing now is just waiting for the game. The boys are champing at the bit to get involved, get in the mixer and get playing.”

Wales have beaten South Africa in five of the their last six meetings, including four successive victories.

Asked about his own form ahead of another tilt at the Springboks, North added: “Mixed, if I’m honest.

“Obviously this is the biggest stage and where you want to be playing your best rugby.

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George North in action against France in the quarter-final (Ashley Western/PA)

“I’ve not been playing badly, but not to where I want to be. But to see where we are now in a semi-final and to be part of it is something special.

“So from my point of view we’ve just got to stay positive, keep grafting and hopefully I will get a few more touches.

“These are the games that you do all the hard graft for, the months of preparation, the altitude camps, the heat camps, every other camp we’ve been on up until now.

“To get to a semi-final is massive. It’s certainly one of the biggest games of my career and my life. Hopefully, we can go out and perform and have an even bigger one next week.”

Injuries have sidelined full-back Liam Williams and back-row forward Josh Navidi from the semi-final, but centre Jonathan Davies has recovered from a knee problem to partner Hadleigh Parkes in midfield.

Leigh Halfpenny, meanwhile, takes over from Williams and Ross Moriarty packs down at number eight instead of Navidi.

Wales assistant coach Stephen Jones said: “Jon is a good communicator, who does his role very well. It’s great to have him fully fit and ready to go.

“He is fit and he has trained very well. He’s hitting the ball well, he is getting into position quickly. He has got the green light and he is good to go.

“It’s disappointing to lose Liam, but we’ve got Leigh Halfpenny coming in, who is a wonderful player.

“He brings a different dimension to the back-line. Look at Leigh’s game, aerially he is very good, his work-rate behind the defensive line is top drawer.”

PA

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