WALES head coach Warren Gatland has thrown down the gauntlet to wing George North ahead of the Six Nations opener with England by insisting his recent international performances have been substandard.
The 22-year-old has scored 19 tries in 45 Tests and is set to return to the Wales side against England after Gatland yesterday named his matchday squad for Friday’s clash at the Millennium Stadium.
North missed the principality’s 12-6 victory over South Africa in November due to concussion, while the return of British and Irish Lion Richard Hibbard at hooker is the only other change to that line-up.
North has enjoyed a prolific campaign for Northampton Saints this term and has crossed the line 12 times in 15 Premiership and European Champions Cup appearances, and Gatland maintains he can be the key for Wales.
“We had a good chat to George,” said Gatland. “We don’t think he has played that well in the Welsh jersey in the last few games, so there is a lot of pressure and expectation on him to perform.
“He does have that X-factor. We are looking for a big performance from him on Friday night.”
Backs: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb
Forwards: Gethin Jenkins, Richard Hibbard, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (c), Taulupe Faletau