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Wales’ pre-World Cup ‘vibe’ different from dismal Six Nations – George North

04 Aug 2023 4 minute read
Wales’ George North Andrew Milligan PA Images

Wales will step up their World Cup preparations on Saturday, with George North claiming “the vibe is completely different” following a dismal Six Nations campaign last season.

England arrive at the Principality Stadium for an opening pre-World Cup encounter that sees Wales back in action after winning just two of their last 10 Tests.

A tense victory over Italy in Rome prevented a Six Nations whitewash and staved off the wooden spoon as Wales’ poor on-field displays were mirrored by events off it through major financial issues in Welsh professional rugby and grave uncertainty with player contracts.

And those behind-the-scenes troubles led to a threatened players’ strike ahead of England’s last Cardiff visit in February.

“After the Six Nations, anything is better than that, really, after all the stuff going on. It is a much better place. The vibe is completely different,” North said.

“We all took it (Six Nations) very personally, as we do, because it is our fingerprints on it.

“And ‘Gats’ (Wales head coach Warren Gatland) took it on himself to make it right. He has been back playing his normal mind-games, he has been around the boys geeing them up.

“He has had the ability to put his stamp on it, more than he did in the Six Nations, and the same with the coaches.

“We have had a lot more time on the paddock with them, a lot more time to sit down with them, being away in (training) camps, having a coffee with them and understanding how they see things working, bouncing ideas off them.

“Some of those sessions (in Switzerland and Turkey last month), you think there’s no way we can do it, but you grind it out as a team and you get what you want out of it.”


A fourth World Cup beckons for 113 times-capped centre North, who is among just four survivors from the 2011 tournament in Wales’ current training squad alongside Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau.

And the 31-year-old remains an integral part of Gatland’s plans, offering vast experience and a considerable midfield presence.

“I am still enjoying it, still loving it, still competing, which is the main thing,” he added.

“It is not just knowing your role, but knowing two or three roles – which can obviously help with selection – covering both wings, in the centre, knowing that injuries happen.

“And it’s just imparting some wisdom to the younger guys knowing that ‘yes, you can do this, but you need to be good at this and this to really open that opportunity’.”

North, meanwhile, has paid a glowing tribute to Halfpenny, who will become the ninth member of Wales’ 100-cap club when he runs out against England.

“We’ve been doing it together for 14 years, through thick and thin, and in sickness and in health,” North said.

“I can’t think of a Welshman who deserves it more for his service to the country. What he has given for years in big moments where he has stepped up and delivered for us.

“He has had a rough old time with injuries and it has kept him on 99 caps for a long enough time. But what a player.

“If any young players want to look up to anyone as to how it should be done, how you should look after yourself on and off the field, then look at Leigh.

“He is a very good friend of mine and I am chuffed to take the field with him on Saturday for his 100th cap. He’s probably the one guy who deserves it more than most.”

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