Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby World Cup

North can fire Wales in upward direction

England v Wales

By Andrew Baldock

George North is relishing launching his second World Cup campaign today - an experience that he describes as rugby union's "biggest honour".

The juggernaut Northampton wing was just 19 when he helped Wales reach the semi-finals in New Zealand four years ago.

But he has gone on to win more than 50 caps - the youngest to achieve that feat - and score 23 Test tries, which puts him fourth on Wales' all-time list behind Shane Williams, Gareth Thomas and Ieuan Evans.

"For me, the World Cup is the biggest honour," he said. "Whenever I put a Wales jersey on, I want to play my best, so there is no lack of effort.

"But any World Cup is the time you want to be shining, and obviously being so close to home this time it would be a good one to shine in.

"For me, 2011 was a massive learning curve. If I look back, it was just the fact that I was so young and so naive to the ways of international rugby at the time.

"I guess now it is a case of becoming more professional and knowing what is better for me on a week-to-week basis with a Test match on the Saturday. It has generally been about working out where I can be a pain."

North's strike-power will be vital in the quest for a third Twickenham victory over England for Wales during Warren Gatland's coaching reign that began in early 2008.

And if Wales come out on top, it would put them in the box-seat with regard to securing one of two quarter-final places from a punishing pool that also includes Australia and Fiji.

"You look at our group, and everyone has dubbed it the group of death. Obviously, it is very hard, and our first big test is coming this Saturday," North added.

"I think if you look at the (Wales) squad, we have had some injuries, but every man that has been picked at the weekend 'Gats' has got complete trust in.

"I have no doubt that we will go and do a job for each other. We have got the chance to show what we can do."

Wales' coaching staff have been actively encouraging North to target more ball-in-hand time during games, and there is no doubt that he could cause havoc today if opportunities arise.

"Everyone says that the more touches you can have, the more impact you can have, and no-one gets more frustrated when I don't get any ball than myself," he said.

"It is about concentrating my mind, knowing when to work and making sure the work is proper."

Pool A: Twickenham Stadium, London 8.00pm (ITV)

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph