George North rest ‘has been a bit of a blessing’ as Wales side takes form for World Cup

Wales captain Sam Warburton said that North will have benefited from his lengthy layoff. North, who had a series of concussion injuries last season, has not played a competitive game since March.

Wales’ George North, centre, could secure his 50th cap in their World Cup warm-up match against Ireland on August 29. Martin Bureau / AFP
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Wales captain Sam Warburton said that George North will have benefited from his lengthy layoff heading into next month’s World Cup.

North, who had a series of concussion injuries last season, has not played a competitive game since March.

But the Northampton wing appears to be on course for a comeback when Wales continue their World Cup warm-up schedule against Ireland in Dublin on August 29, which would see North win his 50th cap.

He took part in a Wales full contact training session in Colwyn Bay on Tuesday and Warburton is predicting big things once more from one of world rugby’s major box-office ­attractions.

“I think it has been a bit of a blessing, the break he has had,” the Wales captain said.

“He has been under a huge amount of pressure the last 12 to 24 months. He came on the scene and was one of the best wingers in the world straight away. He has such high expectations of himself and people externally do as well.

“I think he will come back as hungry as we have ever seen him before and he has had so much time to work on himself ­physically.

“Every player needs a break. You love playing rugby, but he has been playing tough fixtures with Northampton and coming back to the international scene. Every now and again you do need a break, and I think this will have been good for him.”

While North, 23, is set to be an integral part of Wales’s World Cup squad, the dream will end for some players when coach Warren Gatland reduces his current training group in terms of personnel, probably later this week.

It is thought that eight to 10 players could miss out as the countdown builds towards Gatland’s final 31-man World Cup squad being named at the Millennium Stadium in just under three weeks.

Warburton said: “It is great the competition we have got, but at the same time everyone is helping each other along.

“Everyone gets on great, but unfortunately a couple of guys aren’t going to make it, which is quite sad. But they know that.

“The chances are that injuries are going to happen in the World Cup. They happened in 2011. Even if guys do get cut it is definitely not over for them.”

Warburton is among several players who look set to be involved against Ireland this month, which is Wales’ penultimate preparation fixture before tackling opening World Cup pool opponents Uruguay in Cardiff on September 20.

Wales finished fourth at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, their best performance on a global stage for 24 years, when their levels of fitness were lauded.

“I think we have started off in a better place from Day 1,” Warburton said of the current training work.

“We probably got to the fitness levels we were at in 2011 a couple of weeks ago and we have still got a nice three-week block before the next game. We have still got to go up again.

“We are definitely in a better place physically. It is just making sure from a rugby perspective we get the rugby as good, if not better.

“I thought we played some great stuff towards the end of the Six Nations last season and we felt very comfortable playing together. It is just getting that cohesion back by the time the World Cup starts.”

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