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Jenkins upbeat about North fitness

Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins has delivered an upbeat bulletin on star wing George North as the World Cup countdown moves into its Test match warm-up phase.

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 against Millennium Stadium visitors Ireland next Saturday, North continues to make promising 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 hopefully things will keep progressing and he will take some part in these games prior to the World Cup.

"I wouldn't have thought he would be involved this weekend, but I am sure three weeks down the road he could be involved in the Dublin game (against Ireland)."

Wales' 40-plus World Cup training squad is now back at its Vale of Glamorgan base following gruelling camps in Switzerland and Qatar, from where preparations will continue for the opening warm-up game before a return fixture at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on August 29 and then a Cardiff appointment with Italy seven days later.

Wing Liam Williams (foot) and prop Samson Lee (Achilles) are both currently battling back to full fitness and could miss the entire warm-up schedule, with Wales head coach Warren Gatland due to name his final World Cup squad on August 31.

"If you don't play games, you are not training to the level the rest of the guys are doing," Jenkins added.

"But these guys have played rugby for a long time, and they are both extremely talented rugby players and important to our team. If we can get these guys up and running and fit, they will make a big difference to our squad.

"It is up to 'Gats' when the time is right to see if these guys are right. Both are going extremely well."

Wales prided themselves on their fitness at the last World Cup four years ago, when they reached the semi-finals, and Jenkins believes the brutal intensity of work done so far this summer is an essential requirement as preparation for a punishing pool that also includes hosts England and twice-world champions Australia.

"The boys have been working incredibly hard over the last six weeks," he said. "It was tough and brutal.

"To see them train and the workload they get through was pretty incredible, and I am in awe of them. They are only going to get fitter and keep putting in the sessions.

"It gets to a point where they are training that hard, you wonder is someone going to drop out, but they keep going and encouraging each other and dragging each other across the line. We need to be in the best possible shape to give ourselves a chance to get out of that group."

Wales' first warm-up clash - which is set to be a Millennium Stadium sell-out - should see World Cup squad candidates like Gareth Anscombe, Ross Moriarty and Tyler Morgan receive an opportunity, with Gatland's starting line-up being announced on Tuesday.


From Belfast Telegraph