George North exclusive: Sportsmail's new columnist ahead of the Six Nations
The RBS Six Nations kicks off this weekend with the focus on a new look England. However, in Wales one young man has already made himself a star. And here Sportmail's new columnist George North opens up about life at the top of the game.
The World Cup was one hell of an experience
It feels like years ago now but I will keep hold of it — my first World Cup, my first full competition for my country.
Welcome: George North has signed up as Sportsmail's Six Nations columnist
With Ireland approaching we’ve looked back and spoken about that quarter-final. It was probably our best performance but in some ways Samoa was more significant. It was must-win, we were getting smashed up by these massive Islanders and we still came away with the victory. The whole team grew in confidence after that.
I owe the supporters a thank you
Like all the players and the management, I really do want to thank the fans for their incredible support and for being so passionate while we were out there.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out there is pressure on us now after how well we performed and it did help probably being out of the picture for a little bit, just free to get our training done and get our prep in.
Personally, I try not to listen to any hype too much because it can get in the way of training.
Powering through: North is one of the most exciting in his position in the world
The Poland training camps are as much a mental as physical battle
Early mornings, long days. The work was similar to our pre-World Cup training camps but we couldn’t do the same volume because it was a shorter turnaround.
It was so cold in Gdansk that nobody really wanted to be there but we know it is all for a good purpose so you just get on with it.
The day starts at 6am with ‘monitoring’, which is a weigh-in and your saliva and urine tests for hydration levels, then the first session in the gym starts an hour later. We did a fitness session on the beach — it was so cold there was snow on the sand. I couldn’t get my head around that.
Work ethic was always important to me because it had to be…
I believe it’s my work ethic that has got me here today. In Wales, there is a lot of competition to get a look-in and being from North Wales meant I didn’t get many chances.
The geography means all of the rugby is based in Newport, Llanelli, Swansea and Cardiff. It is better now but we hardly got any chance to play in South Wales so taking your chances was key. It’s something I’ve always believed in: if you work hard you’re rewarded.
They are moving Under 20 home Six Nations matches to North Wales now which will be a great thing.
…it was something I learned from my old man
Both my parents have had a massive impact on my life. My dad always said: ‘When you’ve got a chance, work until you’ve nothing left because you might not get another.’
I have an older brother and two older sisters who are the complete opposite to me. The joke in the family is that my brother got the brains and I got the brawn. He’s the A-class student and I’m the A-class lump.
I lost my wooden spoon at the World Cup
The youngest player in the squad has to carry a giant wooden spoon. In the last week I lost it. Ninety-two hours later — and about 12 room raids — I finally found it in Adam Jones’ room. It cost me three figures in fines and the boys wound me up. I wasn’t happy. It kept changing hands and I was always just behind it.
Get in shape: The Wales embarked on a challenging training camp in Poland, which included cryotherapy chambers
We don’t stay in camp all week
It varies depending on our schedule. We generally go home on Wednesday and Thursday but away games are different. I’ve never played in Dublin but it’s probably the closest game for my family because they still live in North Wales.
The boys have been telling me it’s a great stadium to play in and it will be two countries who love to play. They play physical and they play fast but they like to play rugby. It’s one of those you wish you could watch sometimes!
I’m a member of ‘the original wolf pack’…
…but I can’t tell you any more! It’s on my Twitter page and it’s between me and my team-mates. I’m not very good at gaming, but I like to get online and play with the boys – a bit of Call of Duty and a bit of FIFA. It’s supposed to be rest time but I’m sure some of the boys’ heart-rates should not go that high on a day off.
I want to play a bit of golf but I don’t have enough time off. I won’t mention my handicap because I haven’t played in so long but Rhys Priestland is a bit of a golfer.
Tribute: North has hailed the retired Shane Williams
I am wary of ‘second-season’ syndrome
It's something a lot of players go through and something I want to minimalize. There is going to be a lot of expectation and I’ve got to deal with it.
It’ll be OK as long as I don’t forget why I’m there – if you lose focus you lose out. Does that make sense or do I sound like a nut case
I’m not too bad on the superstitions
Compared to my team-mates, at least. I start off with my left sock, then my right sock, left boot, right boot, then I pull my socks up and tie my laces in the same order, left then right. That’s the one thing I have to do before I go on to the pitch.
Shane Williams is a great loss – for me and for Wales
Ask any Welsh wing at any level who is your favourite player and I guarantee you nine out of 10 will say ‘Shane Williams’. I learned so much from him, watching him, playing against him, playing with him, even talking to the guy.
But if he felt it was time to retire then I back him to the hilt. The boys are winding me up saying he’s the new agility guru coming in to teach us to side step.
Injuries are the nature of the beast
This run of bad luck has felt like a bit of a low blow but you can’t get away from playing rugby without getting injuries. It’s bound to happen and we’ve just got to manage them and work around them.
The quality we’ve got means those who come in can still do the same job. Every dog has its day. It all comes back to that lesson: if you have a chance, you take it.
George North is supporting RBS RugbyForce, the community rugby programme that is improving club facilities across the nation. To register your club for the RBS RugbyForce Weekend on June 2 and 3, visit: www.rbs.com/rugbyforce
Getting to know George North
I'm not a massive fan of books but I am reading 61 Hours by Lee Child which was given to me by a close friend Andy McCann. It's taking me ages to get through because I read a chapter and then fall asleep.
I don’t have any quirky pastimes but I have started collecting the key cards from hotels. It’s not like I have to, only if I remember.
I have a cat and a dog. The dog is called Bess and the cat is called Splodge – don’t ask, it’s a very long story.
Wolf pack: Despite being the youngest, North is a key member of the dressing room
I don’t really have a favourite holiday destination. I don’t really have enough time if I’m honest. Hopefully after the Six Nations I’ll get some rays on a beach and relax, or go home and see the family in sunny North Wales.
I watch a lot of DVDs and try to go to the cinema as much as I can. It’s a great way to chill out. I’m more into action and comedy – but I can’t stand horror movies.
When I was growing up I really played every sport I could. I didn’t play anything to a high level really, but I just couldn’t bear to be still for very long.