One of a kind George will be missed

One of a kind George will be missed
Careers like the one George North has had don’t get handed to you. You have to earn them.

He burst onto the international scene with a bang. If the wider rugby world wasn’t familiar with him before then, a lot of Welsh rugby fans weren’t either, because here was this 18-year-old who’d only played six games for the Scarlets. He was very raw but it didn’t take long for him to develop into a world-class winger with an unbelievable try-scoring record.

You felt fortunate to have a weapon like George that you could utilise. We’d come up with moves at the Scarlets and with Wales to try and get him on the ball as much as possible because he was so destructive. He’s scored some huge tries for Wales in some big moments. It’s been an unbelievable international career that will come to an end this weekend in Cardiff.


Of all George’s many achievements, the fact that he’s adapted his game in order to move to centre is up there with the best of them. After over a decade playing on the wing, that requires a level of talent and game intelligence that’s rare to come by.

Next year is a big change for him and his family moving to the south of France, and maybe George has felt the need to commit himself fully to that. To play as many games as he has takes a lot out of you, physically and mentally. What you can’t take away from his is what he’s achieved. Some of my best memories on the international stage come with George being there. To be able to share those with him is great.

I remember when he scored that try against Australia in the first Test for the British and Irish Lions in 2013. I think I was the first person to congratulate him, but I had a long way to go to do that because he’d left everyone for dust - the Wallabies and his own teammates. That was an iconic moment.

Earlier that year, we played France in Paris in the Championship. George scored a try and I noticed somebody had came onto the pitch to celebrate with us. It was all a bit of a blur, but as we were running back to our half while Dan Biggar took the conversion, I turned to Ken Owens and said, “Look, my head’s on the game here, but I’m pretty sure that was George’s dad that ran onto the field.” Ken didn’t believe me, so I asked George after the game, “Was that your dad?” And he said no. Two minutes later he got a phone call from his mother saying his dad had been locked up for running onto the field!

The Wales team will certainly miss George’s personality. He loves to tease people and is always bouncing around the team room in good spirits. During that really restrictive period of the pandemic when the squad was holed up in the Vale hotel, George and I opened the Covid Cafe for the boys on our day off, serving coffee and a pastry. He was the barista and I took the money. It was good fun. He was always trying to make the experience better within camp, knowing full well how challenging it can be to be away from family and friends for so long. He’s always good to be around - never a sapper like some of the boys!

I’m not sure the Welsh players need any galvanising going into this Italy match on Super Saturday, but George deserves to go out on a good note. I’m sure this being his last Test match will be just one of the messages Warren Gatland and the coaches will have put across this week.

Wales would have been disappointed with how the last 30 minutes went against France. They were in the fight up until then, but in the end it came down to a game of physics: France had bigger men who were harder to stop. They could generate more force and over time that takes its toll. France had control of the gain line battle in the last 15 minutes and were able to dictate the tempo of the game. That really was the deep end for some of those young Welsh players.

The boys will be feeling the pressure, but that can bring out the best in them in the same way England reacted against Ireland. I always found that the bigger the occasion, the better I played. This Italy game represents a great opportunity for Wales. It’s vital for this group moving forward to get a result, purely for their confidence. Going on the summer tour without having won in a while is far from ideal.

If they can win against Italy they can draw a line and move on from there.

Only Dan Biggar (18) has assisted more tries in the Guinness Men's Six Nations for Wales than Jonathan Davies (12). During his Six Nations career (2011-22), Wales had a 68% win rate with Davies in the starting XV, compared to 53% when he didn't start or feature at all.

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