North hopes to pass England test

By Gareth RobertsBBC Sport Wales
George North
Wing George North has scored three tries in five Wales appearancess

A year ago George North was anxiously awaiting exam results that could yet help shape his future off the rugby field.

But on Saturday at Twickenham the 6ft 4in, 16st 5lb 19-year-old will face an altogether different test as he faces England with World Cup selection on the line.

North and his team-mates will be part of what Wales coach Warren Gatland predicts will be a "full-on Test match" at Twickenham.

Chris Ashton, England's star of last season, will not be there to greet North with England opting for their own giant in Matt Banahan on one wing and Mark Cueto on the other.

In Scarlets wing North, Wales' followers believe they have a player to match, if not better, rugby league convert Ashton.

Born in King's Lynn and raised in Anglesey, Welsh-speaker North sees things somewhat differently.

He said: "Ashton has done great in the way he has switched from rugby league to union - he is a great athlete.

"I have watched him and tried to take on board the things he does well. His work-rate and his hunger to get on the shoulder of runners is what impresses me most.

"If you watch him, he is always there in the right place to take an offload."

Northampton's Ashton has become synonymous with a swallow-dive try celebration, but North is more likely to simply touch the ball down and move on.

"That's not me," said North. "I am more about just getting the ball down and going again.

"Plus, I am slightly heavier than him, so it would be a bigger collision with the ground! I don't think it would do me any good."

With three tries in five Wales appearances - including two on his debut against South Africa in November - North has already cemented himself as the long-term left-wing successor to diminutive 34-year-old Osprey Shane Williams.

But being on the brink of selection for the 2011 World Cup was far from North's mind 12 months ago.

"I wanted to pass my exams at Llandovery College and have a good pre-season with the Scarlets," added North, who moved to Anglesey with his family 17 years ago.

"So if I am lucky enough to go to this World Cup, I just want to put in good performances and cement my place in the squad.

"We are all still learning and I am just enjoying my time. I am trying to take in as much as possible.

"I have obviously never been to a World Cup, and I've spoken to a lot of the older lads about how it works.

"It has just made me want to go even more."

England: D Armitage (London Irish); M Banahan (Bath), M Tuilagi (Leicester), R Flutey (Wasps), M Cueto (Sale); J Wilkinson (Toulon), D Care (Harlequins); A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Hartley (Northampton), M Stevens (Saracens), S Shaw (unattached), T Palmer (Stade Francais), T Croft (Leicester), L Moody (Bath, capt), J Haskell (Black Rams).

Replacements: L Mears (Bath), D Wilson (Bath), M Botha (Saracens), T Wood (Northampton), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), C Hodgson (Saracens), C Sharples (Gloucester).

Wales: Rhys Priestland (Scarlets); George North (Scarlets), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams; Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne); Paul James (Ospreys), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Craig Mitchell (Exeter), Bradley Davies (Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Danny Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Toby Faletau (Dragons), Sam Warburton (Blues, capt).

Replacements: Lloyd Burns (Dragons), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Dragons), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets).

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