Rob Howley: Wales comfortable with George North at centre

Wales assistant coach gives his thoughts on the midfield as Jon Davies and Scott Williams are left out against Australia

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley insists the coaching staff are comfortable with their midfield pairing despite the loss of Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams.

In their place comes try-scoring machine George North, with the 22-year-old Northampton Saints winger partnering Racing Metro’s Jame Roberts.

“George has gone there before, been selected against France last year, and gone there against Australia and has scored three tries in two games,” Howley said.

“Obviously, he is going to be stressed a little bit defensively and in terms of his decision-making, but we are more than comfortable with George playing in the centre.

“Having another Lion in Jamie alongside him will give him confidence.

“It gives an opportunity to George to see another skill-set in him and hopefully it will be a game where they have plenty of possession.

“With his pace and guile, and ability to beat players, we are more than comfortable with that partnership.”

Davies and Williams are both close to returns having picked up injuries for their respective clubs in the European Champions Cup last month, and Howley expects both to be available for selection against Fiji next week.

“It was disappointing to lose both Jon and Scott through injury,” Howley added.

“It is important we look after our players and make sure they are 100 percent fit when they are ready to play, and we didn’t want to take any risks with both Scott or Jon,”

“They were close, but with the speed of the game against these southern hemisphere sides, you have to beat 100 percent, particularly in those outside channels.

“With regards Scott, your speed off the mark and acceleration is crucial in attack and defence. We just felt the common sense approach was that they are 100 percent when selected and touch wood they will be available for the Fiji game.

With North switching from his customary left wing position, it means a reprieve for Liam Williams and eases a selection issue for head coach Warren Gatland.

Scarlets full-back Williams was the villain in Wales’ heart-breaking 31-30 defeat to South Africa in their last outing, but retains his place in the starting XV, switching from full-back to the left wing as Toulon’s Leigh Halfpenny makes a welcome return to the Wales 15 jersey after going off injured against England at Twickenham in March.

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