Since The Tour: George North
A fearsome runner with ball in hand and an expert finisher, George North burst on to the international scene as an 18-year-old and has since featured in two British & Irish Lions Tours.
The Wales wing was superb on the 2013 Tour of Australia, igniting the first Test in Brisbane with a stunning solo try which set the tourists on their way to a 23-21 victory.
He was at it again in the series decider in Sydney, crossing for the third of the tourists’ four tries in a memorable 41-16 triumph which secured a first series win for the Lions since 1997.
Consistent try-scoring displays for Wales saw North selected as a Lion once more in 2017, though injury brought an unfortunate early end to his Tour after some impressive displays in the warm-up matches.
Still only 28, North will be eager to secure a spot on his third Tour in 2021 when the Lions take on world champions South Africa.
And in the latest part of our new series focusing on what the 2017 tourists have been up to since, we take a look at how North has continued to prove influential on the domestic and international stage.
North’s first match action on the 2017 Tour came in the third warm-up match against Crusaders as he played the full 80 minutes on the right wing in a hard-fought 12-6 victory.
The Welshman switched to the left wing the following Saturday, playing the first 64 minutes of a 32-10 triumph over Maori All Blacks, but missed out on selection for the first Test at Eden Park which New Zealand won 30-15.
North was then handed a chance to stake a claim against Hurricanes and he scored his first try of the Tour in the first half. There was a sting in the tail, however, as he later picked up a hamstring injury which brought a premature end to his Tour.
North, who made 143 metres with ball in hand during his appearances on the 2017 Tour, could therefore only watch from the sidelines as the Lions fought back to claim a 1-1 series draw against the then world champions.
BACK TO WALES
North had moved from Scarlets to Northampton Saints following the 2013 Tour and scored 27 tries in 61 English Premiership appearances, while also proving influential in the club securing European Champions Cup qualification for the 2017/18 season.
In November 2017, however, the Welsh Rugby Union announced North had signed a national dual contract which would see him return to his home country from the start of the 2018/19 campaign.
“As a proud Welshman, I am excited to be heading back to Wales and to have signed a NDC,” North said at the time.
“I feel that the time is right and the opportunity to sign a NDC, with the benefits that come with it and the support it provides from the national squad set-up. It’s a great option for me.”
His destination remained under wraps until April 2018, when Ospreys announced they had won the race to sign the wing.
North marked his debut in trademark style, scoring two tries in a victory over Edinburgh in the opening round of the 2018/19 PRO14 season. He also crossed the whitewash in Ospreys’ 21-10 win over Scarlets in the Champions Cup play-off, ending his first season back in Wales on a high.
After a quiet 2018 Six Nations by his own lofty standards – though he scored two tries against Italy – North was back to his rip-roaring best in the opening round of the following campaign.
Wales looked out of it at half-time in Paris, trailing France 16-0, only for North to score twice – including a dramatic late interception try – as Gatland’s side stormed back to win 24-19, with North named man of the match.
It was the start of a landmark campaign for Wales, who secured a terrific Grand Slam when they beat Ireland 25-7 in Cardiff.
North started four matches in Wales’ successful 2019 Championship but injury forced him off after just nine minutes against Ireland, a theme that would unfortunately frustrate him once more in the World Cup which followed later in the year.
The Ospreys star started five matches in Japan, scoring against Georgia, but was forced off towards the end of the first half in the 19-16 semi-final defeat against South Africa.
He recovered to start four matches in the interrupted 2020 Six Nations, scoring his 20th Championship try in Wales’ opening round victory against Italy.
North needs just two more to draw level with Shane Williams as his country’s all-time leading Six Nations try scorer and will look to etch his name further into Wales and British & Irish Lions folklore in the years to come.