Six Nations 2015: George North aims to repay Warren Gatland’s faith
Northampton Saints winger is beginning to rediscover his form for Wales after impressive display against France
Wales star George North wants to repay Warren Gatland’s faith in him as he continues his comeback from a slump in form.
The 22-year-old will win his 48th cap for his country on Saturday when RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam contenders Ireland arrive at the Millennium Stadium.
I felt that Paris was a step forward for me to where I want to be in a Welsh jersey, and hopefully on Saturday I can push forward again and reward his trust.
George North on his return to form in the Six Nations
It still seems a long time since the Northampton Saints winger made his Wales debut against South Africa in November 2010, scoring two tries in a narrow defeat at the Millennium Stadium.
After a stark warning from the Wales coaches that he needed to up his game, North bounced back from the double head knock controversy in the opening-round defeat to England in Cardiff and missing the win over Scotland.
While his long-time wing colleague Alex Cuthbert has also been out of sorts in the last year, it is the Cardiff Blues winger, not North, who was axed amid the clamour to see in-form Scarlets star Liam Williams given a chance to start for Wales.
Williams impressed while deputising for North in Edinburgh, but North was recalled by Gatland for the trip to Paris at Cuthbert’s expense.
And his impressive display in the Wales win over France in Paris gave a glimpse that he is close to rediscovering his best form ahead of the penultimate round of the championship as Wales return to Cardiff.
“For me, it’s never a good point if the head coach is not happy with you,” North said.
“That is when you start getting dropped and stuff.
“I felt that Paris was a step forward for me to where I want to be in a Welsh jersey, and hopefully on Saturday I can push forward again and reward his trust.”
Tries have been particularly hard to come by for Wales’ wingers in recent times, with North scoring just once in his last seven outings for Wales, but his record at the Millennium Stadium remains impressive with seven in his last 10 starts.
Wales will need his powerful running and strength all the more when unbeaten Ireland head to Cardiff for the match billed as a “Grand Slam semi-final” for Joe Schmidt’s green machine, who notched up a record-equalling 10th successive win against England in Dublin on 1 March.
Over the past two years they have been very good at finishing games off. They take their chances when they can, and we have lacked that composure when it has come to the crunch.
George North on the difference between Ireland and Wales
A win for Gatland’s men will keep them in the title hunt along with Ireland and England, who are expected to bounce back against winless Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.
This year’s tournament has all the hallmarks of the 2013 championship, when Wales lost their opening match against Ireland at the Millennium Stadium, but went on to win their next four matches, including a stunning 30-3 win over England in a championship decider at the Millennium Stadium against all odds as the Red Rose went in search of a first Grand Slam since 2003.
Ireland have enjoyed the upper hand over Wales since Gatland’s men followed up their 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final win with success in Dublin in the 2012 Six Nations.
And the Irish have a superb record in the Welsh capital, having lost just twice since 1983
“If you look at Ireland over the last couple of years in this fixture, they have just been clinical,” North added.
“Over the past two years they have been very good at finishing games off.
“They take their chances when they can, and we have lacked that composure when it has come to the crunch.
“They are 10 from 10, which is unbelievable.
“They have got a lot of confidence now, they execute their game-plan very well and they are a side that knows what they want to do and where they want to go, and everyone has bought into that ethos.
“We don’t need to big the game up more than it is.
“It’s a massive game for Ireland, going for the Grand Slam, and for us it will be a great Test match here in Cardiff.”