If Oval Talk had to pick one player to particularly get
excited about ahead of the Rugby World Cup then it would have to be Wales'
Having watched him first hand play for the Scarlets before
seeing him make his international debut against South Africa at the Millennium
Stadium last Autumn it was clear very early on that the guy is special. It is
not hyperbole to say he could be the star of this year's World Cup.
On that day against South Africa North scored two tries and
terrorised the opposition throughout. The 19-year-old did not deserve to come
out on the losing side with the Springboks eventually edging the match 29-25.
And the teenager from Anglesey will be ready once again to
strike fear into the South Africans when the two sides meet in their opening
Pool D match on September 11. That is of course if he is selected, but it would
be impossible for Warren Gatland not to pick North especially after his
performance against Argentina on Saturday.
The youngster, who weighs in at 17st 1lb, was irrepressible
against the Pumas. What makes North such a great player is that he has the
skill and grace to compliment his sheer brutal strength. And he demonstrated
that in the build up to the second try.
When Jamie Roberts played him in North cut through
Argentina's defence in a manner similar to Shane Williams. And as North
approached the try line he would have been forgiven for wanting to take on the
final defender and go for the glory. But no, he had the presence of mind to
notice Alun Wyn Jones' run and made the pass to provide the Ospreys' captain
with a simple try.
That was Wales' second try in two minutes and meant Wales
had managed to turn things around and went into the break 14-3 up. Had North
been given the ball earlier than the 37th minute then Wales would
most definitely have been in total control by half-time.
After the break North showed the other side of his game by
powering over the line to score his sixth try in eight Tests. What makes
North's performance against Argentina even more remarkable was he scored one
try and set up another from just four passes.
And the eventual 28-13 victory over the Pumas was a
satisfying one for Gatland's men. After the blows to Morgan Stoddart and Gavin
Henson over recent weeks, this time there were no new injury setbacks.
Other positives were the return of Leigh Halfpenny to the
wing and the impressive performance Tavis Knoyle put in at scrum half. Lee
Byrne's appearance at full back was less so but because of Stoddart's injury he
should make the plane to New Zealand.
There is still the concern with Stephen Jones who had to
pull out at the last minute but he will become Wales' most capped player at
some point during the World Cup without doubt. And Martyn Williams, having
captained the team on Saturday, should feel confident of gaining his 100th
cap in the Pool stage, which will be a memorable day for the veteran.