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George North set to join elite Welsh club against Fiji

By PA
Wales' George North (Photo by Ian Cook/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Wales centre George North will join an elite Rugby World Cup club when he runs out against opening opponents Fiji on Sunday.

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It will be North’s fourth tournament, a feat achieved by only four other Welshmen in Gethin Jenkins, Alun Wyn Jones, Gareth Thomas and Stephen Jones.

And, at 31, he is showing no sign of slowing down, remaining a pivotal figure in head coach Warren Gatland’s plans.

With 114 caps, North is the most experienced Wales player on show at France 2023, underlining his consistency, durability and quality.

“I hoped that I would get to one (World Cup), for sure. To represent your country is huge, but to play at a World Cup is wicked,” he said.

“I am still fighting and competing, and find myself at number four.

“I guess it’s just a kudos to myself and shows all the work you put in is worth it to get to a fourth. I am still enjoying it.”

North is enthused by Wales’ current World Cup crop, with the squad featuring 16 tournament debutants, including co-captains Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake.

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He also has three other cap centurions for company in Dan Biggar, Taulupe Faletau and Leigh Halfpenny as Wales look to make an impact in France.

It will be Gatland’s fourth World Cup at the Wales helm, having previously masterminded two semi-final appearances, and North has been there every step of the way.

He also believes Gatland has firmly put his stamp on the squad, nine months back into his second stint as Wales boss and following a difficult Six Nations campaign last season.

Head-to-Head

Last 3 Meetings

Wins
3
Draws
0
Wins
0
Average Points scored
26
19
First try wins
100%
Home team wins
100%

“The vibe has been really good,” North added. “For a lot of the boys it is their first World Cup, so they are going into the unknown and they are excited.

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“I think everyone has just bought into it straight off, and I think that comes from ‘Gats’ when he set the tone with his last message from the Six Nations to the first day in World Cup camp – ‘this is how we are going to do it, this is how I want to do it. You either want to be in, or you don’t’.

“Some of the (training) sessions in Switzerland were brutal, probably some of the hardest I have ever done. The same in Turkey.

“We came off the paddock and we had knocked lumps out of each other for 40-odd minutes in 46 degrees. It’s all about his way of building that resilience, building that robustness into the squad.

“He pretty much said to us after we played France in the last round of the Six Nations that the World Cup was going to be the hardest thing you will ever do. He was not lying.”

Wales find themselves in a World Cup pool alongside three of their opponents from Japan four years ago – Fiji, Australia and Georgia – with North underlining the importance of a strong start.

“We need to start with a win on Sunday, pure and simple,” he said.

“The squad is in a really good place. Everyone understands where we are, everyone is well drilled on how we want to go about our work.

“The training camps we have been on have been brutal, absolutely brutal. The default setting is never give in, keep moving, keep going, keep going, keep going.”

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