North on a mission

George North's parents were toddlers the last time Wales beat the Wallabies in Australia, but tomorrow in Brisbane he plans to ease 43 years of pain. [more]

North on a mission

George North’s parents were toddlers the last time Wales beat the Wallabies in Australia, but tomorrow in Brisbane he plans to ease 43 years of pain.

You have to go back to the early days of Gareth Edwards, Barry John, JPR Williams, Gerald Davies and Mervyn Davies on 21 June, 1969 to find Wales’ only win over Australia on their own soil.

That was the first of only two victories in 30 attempts to beat a Tri Nations team away from home by Wales, yet the recently crowned Grand Slam champions find themselves in the position of being firm favourites to win the opening game in the three Test series this weekend.

Calls for Kiwi coach Robbie Deans to be sacked intensified after Scotland beat the Wallabies 9-6 in Newcastle on Tuesday night. His reaction to his midweek nightmare was to make eight changes to his starting XV, bringing in five new forwards and three backs.

Having started with 10 players from reigning Super Rugby champions Queensland Reds on Tuesday, he will have no fewer than seven Waratahs running on at the weekend, despite the fact they have lost their last six in a row.

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Still ranked the No 2 team in the world the wallabies find themselves backed into a corner and getting ready to face a confident Welsh side seeking to create a bit history.

“Australia are right up there as one of the best teams in the world. They play fast, furious and physical rugby,” said North.

“But it is our stated ambition to be one of the best teams in the world and to do that we need to take a southern hemisphere scalp. Before the Scots beat them on Tuesday they hadn’t lost at home to a northern hemisphere side for some time, now it is our turn to have a crack.

“Fair play to the Scots, a win is a win in any conditions. It has been a long old season for most of us, but we know there are three hard weeks ahead of us that could possibly be very rewarding.

“It is an occasion that is just asking for something special to happen. We are physically in very good shape and now it is down to getting those top two inches right on the day to help deliver the southern hemisphere result we want.”

The youngest ever try scorer at the World Cup finals, and with a world record 10 Test tries as a teenager, North had 21 caps and a Grand Slam to his name at the ripe old age of 19.

Now all grown up at 20 he will be the go-to man in a Welsh back line missing one vital force in centre Jamie Roberts. Scott Williams, who scored that famous try at Twickenham to clinch the Triple Crown earlier in the year, takes his place in a threequarter line that North believes will cause the Wallabies problems.

“We’ve got some big, strong and hard runners, but we can also play a bit as well. There are some good all round touches in eveyone’s armoury and we’ll be looking to bring them into play,” added North.

“Rob Howley has given us a licence to go out and play what we see in front of us and to take some risks. With the Wallabies looking to hit back after their defeat on Tuesday it has all the makings of a great game.

“We’ve put in a hell of a lot of hard work this season and those two trips to the cryotherapy chambers in Poland before the World Cup and Six Nations really toughened us up. It was all about being in the trenches together.”

North played in the two defeats to the Wallabies at the end of 2011 and knows that he and fellow giant wing Alex Cuthbert will be up against a tough pair of opponents in duo Digby Ioane and new cap Cooper Vuna.

“I’ve played against Digby twice now and he is one of the hardest players I’ve faced. Physically he is very powerful, he runs hard and has a great step,” said North.

But if the Welsh pack delivers like it did in the Grand Slam campaign then it will be Ioane and Tamone who will be having their defensive skills tested at the Suncorp Stadium as North and co try to take Welsh rugby “to the next level”.

Australia: Adam Ashley Cooper (Waratahs); Cooper Vuna (Melbourne Rebels), Rob Horne (Waratahs), Pat McCabe (Brumbies), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds); Berrick Barnes (Waratahs), Will Genia (Queensland Reds); Benn Robinson (Waratahs), Tatafu Polota Nau (Waratahs), Sekope Kepu (Waratahs), Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds), David Pocock (Western Force), Wycliff Palu (Waratahs)
Replacements: Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Dave Dennis (Waratahs), Michael hooper (Brumbies), Nic White (Brumbies), Anthony Fainga’a (Queensland Reds), Mike Harris (Queensland Reds)

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), George North (Scarlets); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Mike Phillips (Bayonne); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Cardiff Blues), Luke Charteris (Dragons), Dan Lydiate (Dragons), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Toby Faletau (Dragons)
Replacements: Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Paul James (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), James Hook (Perpignan), Ashley Beck (Ospreys)

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