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North: Wales must tighten up


George North is looking for a stronger Wales display against Ireland

George North is looking for a stronger Wales display against Ireland

George North is looking for a stronger Wales display against Ireland

George North believes Wales must put an emphasis on tightening up their game this week when the quest for a historic RBS 6 Nations title hat-trick moves up a gear.

Wales blew hot and cold in accounting for opening Six Nations opponents Italy 23-15, a performance juggernaut wing North admitted "wasn't Plan A".

First-half touchdowns by wing Alex Cuthbert and centre Scott Williams flattered to deceive as Italy 'won' the second-half 12-6 on the back of Michele Campagnaro's try double.

Ireland now await North and company in Dublin, a game that could easily match an epic Aviva Stadium tussle of two years ago when North's late try and a last-gasp Leigh Halfpenny penalty edged Wales home by two points.

"Ireland bring a different sort of challenge," North said. "There have been some great games in the past between us.

"Structurally, I think we were okay (against Italy). We were in the right places at the right times, we just weren't as clinical as we were hoping to be.

"We have just got to tighten up, and for us it is about trying to put a whole performance together.

"I don't think we did that against Italy. We showed it in stages, but for us it is about tightening up our game and making sure we are the best we can be next Saturday.

"Come Monday morning, it will be a tough old week leading into a big game next Saturday. There are two teams playing a similar brand of rugby, with firepower and a bit of flair as well."

A seventh successive victory over Italy will not live long in the memory, although given their reputation of being relatively slow tournament starters, Wales can be satisfied they are at least up and running from day one.

"It wasn't Plan A," North added.

"From our point of view, we wanted to start with a bit more flair than that, but in the grand scheme of things, a win is a win.

"To be fair, Italy put up a good fight and negated us very well in certain areas. Sometimes it is better to start with a bit of a rough ride and come out with a win to show the boys' character."

Wales will have an extra days' rest, recovery and preparation this week with Ireland in action on Sunday, and head coach Warren Gatland is due to announce a team on Tuesday that could see a return for 101 times-capped prop Gethin Jenkins and Six Nations skipper Sam Warburton.

Warburton began his comeback from a shoulder injury by playing 15 minutes off the bench against Italy and it is likely he will be restored to the back row, with Justin Tipuric probably making way.

Jenkins, meanwhile, would take over from Paul James and Gatland has a further decision to make on whether he involves British and Irish Lions star Jonathan Davies after the Scarlets centre returned to action this weekend three months after tearing his pectoral muscle.

"It is an extra day to lick your wounds and get over injuries, I guess, to look at analysis and really push on again," North added.

"In the grand scheme of things it won't make a huge difference, but seven days will serve us well."

Reflecting on the Italy result, Gatland said: "It's a reasonable start for us and, the way Italy performed, I wouldn't be surprised if they won a few games in this competition.

"It wasn't an easy run-out. It was tough, and that's the way we wanted it.

"We know there are a few things for us to fix up on, in terms of making sure we're a little bit more accurate and clinical in time for next weekend."