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George North In Line To Return To Wales Training This Weekend

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By Paul Jones

Wales believe George North is progressing well from a shoulder injury picked up in Ospreys win over the Lions in Johannesburg in the EPCR Challenge Cup last weekend.

Skills coach Neil Jenkins is confident the 118-times capped centre will be available for selection for next week’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Scotland at Principality Stadium.

“George is going to be alright. He hasn’t done anything since Sunday but hopefully he will be able to train on Friday,” said Jenkins.

North is one of the more familiar faces for Jenkins and his fellow coaches to deal with in a squad now featuring five uncapped players and a raft of exciting young talent.

“We’ve got some good talent in this squad, as well as a little bit of experience. I think expectations are always high within ourselves – we always believe we can prove ourselves,” added Jenkins.

“You can only look forward to the games can’t you, and there’s a big game ahead of us, there’s no doubting that. I think most people have written us off already, there’s no doubting that, although it’s not something we tend to worry about.

“I think we’ll back ourselves to get things right. We know it’s going to be a tough tournament, but we’ll be doing our utmost to win.

“The first game is the most important thing for us, and Scotland are a settled side, and a good side. They’ve shown that in the last few years, so it is going to be a tough game for us.

“I’d like to think we might be tough to beat as well, so we’ve got to work hard towards that, get ourselves in a good position to show that on the day a week Saturday.”

North, now 31, is the leading Welsh try scorer in Six Nations history with 23, having overtaken Shane Williams with his try against France in Paris last year, and is now chasing down Brian O’Driscoll’s tournament high of 26.

He picked up his first Welsh cap 14 years ago in 2010 against South Africa when he was only 18. He started as he meant to go on, scoring twice against the Springboks. He now has 47 tries for Wales and two more for the British & Irish Lions.

Among the other landmarks he will have in his sights during the upcoming Six Nations campaign are becoming only the fifth Welsh player to make 50 appearances in the Five/Six Nations Championship – Alun Wyn Jones 67, Gethin Jenkins 56, Martyn Williams 51, Stephen Jones 50 – and also reaching 50 Test tries.

Only Shane Williams with 58 has scored more tries for Wales. He is also one of only six players to have scored 50 or more Test tries. North is now one away from joining that select band, led by Japanese wing Daisuke Ohata with 69.

The all-star cast also includes Bryan Habana (South Africa) 67, David Campese (Australia) 64, Shane Williams (Wales / Lions) 60, Hirotoki Onozawa (Japan) 55 and Rory Underwood (England / Lions) 50

Now the most experienced member of Warren Gatland’s squad, North played at his fourth World Cup earlier in the season and Wales head coach Warren Gatland isn’t ruling out a record breaking fifth tournament for the wing-turned-centre in 2027.

“We’ve had some conversations with George, and I think he can still get to the next World Cup. The combination with Nick Tompkins and George was great during the World Cup,” said Gatland.

“His role over the next few years may change, he could be someone who ends up as part of the 23 or part of the squad. He’s well aware of that.”

North is currently the third most capped player in Welsh rugby history after Alun Wyn Jones with 158 and Gethin Jenkins with 129.

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