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Howley wants North improvement

Leigh Halfpenny and George North are not expected to be switched from their familiar starting roles ahead of Wales' Millennium Stadium appointment with Argentina on Saturday.

The reigning RBS 6 Nations champions have been hit by injuries behind the scrum, with Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert and Eli Walker all unavailable.

Halfpenny, arguably world rugby's premier full-back, moved to wing duties after Liam Williams went off injured against South Africa last weekend, with the versatile James Hook going on as last line of defence and Ospreys centre Ashley Beck replacing Davies.

Beck and Scott Williams are expected to remain as Wales' centre combination against the Pumas, although head coach Warren Gatland has previously indicated the possibility of one day selecting juggernaut Northampton wing North in midfield.

Asked on Tuesday if North was under consideration to change positions this week, Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said: "Not at this moment in time. George needs to get back to where he was last year.

"I was a bit disappointed with his performance (last Saturday) in terms of number of touches and getting involved in the game. We've spoken about it, both of us, and it is important that he plays on the wing on the weekend and gets involved in terms of his work-rate.

"His first cap against South Africa (three years ago), I think he made 20-odd touches. I think he only made seven on the weekend.

"We believe Leigh is one of the best full-backs in world rugby and we would like to keep him at 15. Putting Leigh to the wing, he hasn't played there for quite a while.

"In James Hook, Cory Allen, Ashley Beck and Scott Williams, we feel we have got strength in depth there (midfield).

"Jamie Roberts and Jon Davies are world-class players, and any back line in world rugby would miss them. It is that strength in depth you need to search for and develop. We haven't done too badly in that areas when we have developed players like Leigh and George."

Gatland is due to name his line-up for the Argentina game on Thursday.

Scarlets back Liam Williams has a chance of featuring despite going off injured early in the Springboks encounter. If he is unavailable, then Gatland could opt to draft in Tom Prydie or his uncapped Newport Gwent Dragons colleague Hallam Amos on the wing.

Up-front, Bath prop Paul James is favourite to pack down at tighthead prop instead of calf muscle victim Adam Jones.

"Listening to Sir Clive Woodward after the England game (last season) he said that with our best XV out we are a pretty scary team," Howley added.

"Strength in depth is huge, and we are going to ask players now to step in.

"Against South Africa, at 17-6 down many people would have anticipated South Africa to go on and maybe win by 30 or 40 points. I am very proud of the team and how we dug ourselves back into a game having lost a lot of momentum early on."


From Belfast Telegraph