George North says the “ruthlessness has to start now” as Wales build towards their Rugby World Cup opener against Georgia.
Ospreys wing North feels that his nation lacked an edge in attack during a four-game World Cup preparation period that produced three defeats.
And he is eager to see the Wales backs ignite amid a tough Pool D schedule that will be highlighted by appointments with Australia and Fiji.
“There is plenty left in the back line,” said North, who was speaking before it was announced that assistant coach Rob Howley had been sent home from Japan for a potential breach of World Rugby’s regulations on betting.
Former Wales fly-half Stephen Jones will join the squad later this week as attack coach in the wake of Howley’s departure.
North added: “The forwards have fronted up for us on a few occasions now, and we haven’t really executed. I don’t think we’ve had that ruthless edge in the warm-up games.
“I think we had more line breaks against Ireland (on September 7), but we just didn’t execute.
“That ruthlessness has to start now. We are in championship rugby now. It’s the World Cup, and you can’t afford to go into the (opposition) 22 and not get any points.
“We’ve got to make sure we are clinical, take points and build the momentum throughout the group stages to give us the best chance later on.”
In terms of caps, North is the second-most experienced player in Wales’ World Cup squad behind skipper Alun-Wyn Jones.
With 86 Wales appearances, 38 tries and an eight-year Test career in the bank, such experience and leadership will be an important ingredient for his country’s World Cup hopes.
And that senior role, although he is still only 27, is something he continues to grow familiar with.
“They still haven’t put any big decisions on me yet,” he added. “I think I’m still too much of a child.
“The last 18 months I’ve been exposed more and more to that, which is quite a new experience for me. I’ve always been the young one.
“Now, I am one of the elder statesmen, which is quite nice.
“I remember coming in fresh-faced ahead of my first World Cup (in 2011), looking to the older boys for guidance.
“Now, I’m getting people asking me, ‘What do we do here?’ and ‘What do you think about this?’ and I wasn’t quite ready for it when I first started.
“The mix we have now is particularly very good. We’ve got the older crop that have certainly got plenty of rugby left in them.
“But there are younger boys who have now been in the mixer, they understand international rugby and what is required of them, and they are pushing on.
“It’s interesting. It has been really good and it has opened my eyes to the next block of my career.”
Wales were World Cup semi-finalists eight years ago and they reached the quarter-finals in 2015, and North is excited about another big opportunity on rugby union’s global stage.
“It certainly feels different to 2015,” he said. “Our preparation for that tournament was good, but then we hit some serious speed bumps along the way with injuries.
“Luckily, this preparation has been fantastic, really. It’s not been fun, it has been really savage work to get us to where we are now.
“But I feel like we’ve prepared well. People speak about the intensity of international rugby – I think the World Cup is going to add that little bit more, emotionally too.”
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