Rugby World Cup 2011
North ready for Springboks challenge
September 9, 2011
North dives over during the warm-up game against Argentina © Getty Images
George North was a statistician's dream when he made a spectacular Test debut against South Africa last year.
The teenager's two-try display, albeit in defeat, saw him gain multiple entries in the rugby record books. At 18 years and 238 days he became the youngest player to score on debut for Wales, the youngest worldwide player to score two tries on debut and the first player to claim a debut double against South Africa.
More importantly, though, he announced his arrival on the international stage as a player Wales could easily have at their disposal for the next four World Cups. The 6ft 4in teenager makes his World Cup debut on Sunday by renewing old acquaintances, with Bryan Habana and the Springboks waiting for him once more.
"My debut seems more than a year ago, quite a while since I played that first game," said North. "Hopefully, Sunday can be the same. It has all been a big learning curve for me. I think I am a bit more prepared for the challenge now.
"Before, I was a bit fresh-faced and didn't know what to expect. Now I've got a few caps under my belt, I am a bit more prepared. My ball skills are a bit better now, and one of the goals I set myself before a game is to always try to get on the scoreboard."
Habana will make a new entry on South Africa's list of rugby records if he scores this weekend, needing one touchdown to overtake Joost van der Westhuizen as the Springboks' most prolific Test try-scorer. Habana heaped praise on North after his debut, and the respect is mutual.
"I am looking forward to the challenge again," North added. "It was a great experience last time. I always want to test myself against the best in the world, and he is also a great guy. He is one of my heroes."
North has scored an impressive six tries in eight games for Wales, being rewarded not only for his finishing prowess but also a prodigious work-rate. It could mean that the Springboks will pay him much closer attention than they did at the Millennium Stadium last season. They might never have heard of North then, but not anymore.
"It has been a decent start for me," he said. "Hopefully, I can continue the form and keep it going. Everything happens a lot faster in international rugby, and gone are the days when when you just stand on the wing and admire everything.
"For me, I enjoy getting myself in the game. I set myself targets, and if I don't achieve them then I don't feel like I have done as much as I can."
And as for attempting to beat the Springboks? Become involved in a protracted forward battle or showcase Welsh traditions of attacking flair? For North, it is a no-brainer.
"I think we should always go the Welsh way," he added. "There is nothing wrong with the Welsh way. The way we are playing now, on the back of the two wins in August, we should just play our way."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.