Speaking on a stunningly sunny day in Cardiff, George North sounds confident ahead of Wales tour to Australia next month. Still just 20 years of age, the Scarlets winger has enjoyed a breakthrough season from winning accolades at the Rugby World Cup to impressing again in this year’s Six Nations, which resulted in a Grand Slam for Wales.
Speaking at Old Penarthians RFC in South Glamorgan ahead of the NatWest RugbyForce weekend on 2/3rd June, North revealed that despite the absence of head coach Warren Gatland, the mood in the camp is as good as ever.
“All the boys are working hard now in camp and trying to put their hands up for selection, so there’s a good vibe. It’s going to be a hard tour but it’s one that all of the boys want to be on. We all sent Warren a message and apparently he’s picking up so hopefully he’ll be able to make it out for a couple of the games in Australia. To be fair, I work a lot more closely with Rob Howley and he’s a fantastic coach. It’s a great challenge for him but something that he’ll be well up for.”
Going back to last September and the Rugby World Cup, the whole experience of travelling across the world and the manner in which Wales lost out was a huge learning curve for North, both on and off the field.
“It was my first really long-haul flight and I enjoyed it to be honest, it was really different. Flying across the world to Australia and New Zealand, it shows you where we have to go as a side for the next challenge if we are to keep improving. But it also was emotionally draining with a long time away from home and the results not going our way. That said, coming back and winning the Six Nations was a real boost and made up for all the training in the wind and the rain over the winter to get that first title as a young squad.”
Focusing on the Wallabies this summer, having met them twice already this season North knows the challenge Robbie Deans side will bring to the table in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. What he also stresses is that if Wales truly are to become one of the world’s best sides, then they have to come away with a series win.
“They do the basics well, carrying and tackling hard, but when the time comes they can really throw the ball around. Any pass under the sun, they can pull it off, so that’s quite a challenge. The vision of guys like Quade Cooper and James O’Connor is amazing. I try and watch some Super Rugby when I can early in the morning with the boys, looking for ways to try and exploit the space they leave!”
“It’s a must-win tour. At the end of the day we work hard for big wins to show where we are. The Six Nations was a real high point but we need to back it up with a win down in Australia.”
Meanwhile with speculation surrounding the future of Scarlets head coach Nigel Davies with a move to Gloucester, North is clear when he states that losing the Director of Rugby would be a huge blow to the Welsh side. “It would be a big loss for the boys and for myself personally. Nigel opened a lot of early doors for me so I’ve got a lot of respect for him and it would be bad if he was to go. If he does, it will be a big shirt to fill for whoever takes his place.”
by Ben Coles
George North is supporting NatWest RugbyForce, the community volunteer programme that is improving club facilities. To see if your club will be participating in the NatWest RugbyForce Weekend on 2-3 June, visit natwest.com/rugbyforce.