George North Still Has The Hunger To Be Centre Of Attention For Wales

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 14: George North of Wales looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between Wales and Argentina at Stade Velodrome on October 14, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

George North Still Has The Hunger To Be Centre Of Attention For Wales

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By David Williams

George North is a rare specimen in the Wales team that will run out at Twickenham in that he knows what it is like to win there.

The Ospreys star has seen highs and lows against England in over a dozen years but says his drive and desire is undiminished as he prepares to take up membership of an exclusive club.

The Wales centre, who wins his 119th cap against England at Twickenham on Saturday, also clocks up 50 appearances in the Six Nations Championship.

It is a feat achieved by only four other Welshmen – North’s fellow cap centurions Alun Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Stephen Jones and Martyn Williams.

The 31-year-old has been backed by Wales head coach Warren Gatland to make a fifth successive World Cup in Australia during 2027, which would see him equal the record jointly held by Brian Lima, Sergio Parisse and Mauro Bergamasco.

That possibility is some distance down the road, but North’s form and consistency underpins a player who shows no sign of slowing up.

He made his Six Nations debut 13 years ago and heads to Twickenham as the only player in Wales’ matchday 23 to have experienced a Test match victory at the home of English rugby – winning there in 2012 and 2015.

“My drive has never changed,” North said.

“It is always the three feathers. The honour, the privilege and the respect I have for the jersey is something that keeps me focused every day, keeps me working every day.

“I am sure there are a fair few people who say I should have finished a few years ago, but that fight in me and that desire in me to do best by the jersey and do best by Wales has always kept me focused.

“In a four-year cycle, there is a lot of rugby to be played.

“Another World Cup (training) camp is an interesting debate and that will be a coffee with Gats, I imagine. To get to that point, I have got to go for another four years.

“Obviously, I can’t promise that my body will still be in a position to fight and compete, but I am doing everything I can to be the best I can be to perform.”

North is the oldest player on duty for Wales this weekend, while his cap total is more than the entire eight-strong Wales replacements bench combined.

But he relishes being part of a new-look squad and the young talent that is emerging – players like Cameron Winnett, Ioan Lloyd, Keiron Assiratti, Alex Mann and Archie Griffin, who are all involved at Twickenham.

And it has shades of a 19-year-old North heading to his first World Cup in 2011 when his colleagues included Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Lydiate and Jonathan Davies, who were all 23 or younger.

“I don’t want to sound old and say I don’t remember those days, but they are very similar,” North added.

“The only difference is probably when I came through in that group of young players we had a few more senior players for a bit longer to help guide, mould and perform.

“I have been massively impressed with the young boys coming through. Their application, that intensity – you have got to go, go and go – and how they are adapting to that is really good.

“They have got a great opportunity now to stamp their authority on the jersey, a great opportunity to stamp how they want this cycle to look going into the next World Cup, and what an exciting opportunity that is for me to be part of that.”

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