Wales veteran back George North says his team must go “toe to toe” with Ireland in their quest for an opening-day Six Nations win on Warren Gatland’s return.
Gatland has named an experienced squad containing over 900 Test caps, including three Test centurions in North, Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones.
Wales head into the match ranked eight places lower than top-ranked Ireland but will fancy their chances at home, with Andy Farrell’s charges last winning in Cardiff in 2013.
“The cliche is obvious, but they (Ireland) are a team on form; they are playing with confidence,” North said.
“It shows the confidence they have with selection, the players they have gone with.
“I think our main thing is we have to match them toe to toe. If you allow Ireland any momentum or front-foot ball, it is a long day in the office, really.”
Working with Warren Gatland again
30-year-old North made his test debut under Gatland as an 18-year-old in 2020 and is relishing working under the New Zealander again.
“I think we all know ‘Gats’ well enough now that he will be pretty straight with what he wants and how he goes about it,” North added.
“Again, his big thing is just preparing mentally and physically for a Test match. We know what the task is on Saturday.
“They (training sessions) are brutal. Essentially, they are just like mini-games every day.
“‘Gats’ never apologises for working us hard – never has, never will.
“The more we can have the exposure to that Test-match level, day in, day out, for the weeks leading into the Test match, that puts us in the best position for a number of reasons.
“You see the speed of ball, you see, obviously, the physicality, and it puts the skills on both sides of the ball – be it attack or defence – under pressure.
“Obviously, it was a fair few moons ago that I first met ‘Gats’, but for myself and the rest of the squad, it has been a real step forward in terms of positivity regarding last week’s preparation and this week as well.”
The game versus Ireland takes place against the backdrop of the Welsh Rugby Union being rocked by allegations of sexism and misogyny.
WRU chair Ieuan Evans and acting chief executive Nigel Walker were called to give evidence to the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee on Thursday.
This came after serious allegations were aired in a programme by BBC Wales Investigates last week.
Asked about the allegations that the WRU is facing, North was confident in leaving to an external task force to carry out an independent review to ensure it does not happen again.
“Obviously, some really important issues have been raised.
“There has been enough said, but obviously, we will have to leave that to Ieuan and Nigel and the task force to deal with and address so that we don’t have anything else like this happen again in the Welsh Rugby Union,” he said.
“There is a lot going on, and the points and issues raised are really important to us as players and as a union.
“From the players’ point of view, now we can only go out and really focus on Saturday. Number one team in the world coming to our backyard, and we have got to be ready for it.”
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