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George North confirms that Warren Gatland is still the suitable choice to lead the struggling Welsh team.
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George North confirms that Warren Gatland is still the suitable choice to lead the struggling Welsh team.

George North has backed Warren Gatland to revive Wales’s fortunes and believes the current squad has a bright future despite a first winless Six Nations since 2003. North played his 121st and final match for Wales in the defeat against Italy on Saturday before joining the French side Provence next season.

Unfortunately, Wales has endured a streak of seven straight losses in the Six Nations tournament at home in Cardiff and has only emerged victorious in one out of their last 13 championship matches. The team’s lackluster performance against the rapidly improving Azzurri team solidified their position at the bottom of the standings, prompting coach Gatland to potentially offer his resignation to the Welsh Rugby Union.

During Gatland’s initial term, North played a significant role in securing four Six Nations titles, including two grand slams. However, with Italy displaying dominance and scoring two late tries, the final score of 21-24 did not accurately reflect their superiority. The distant memory of those past victories is becoming increasingly distant.

“We had an open and honest discussion,” North commented regarding Wales’ current situation. “It’s important to be straightforward in times like these. We are aware of our position as a team and our current age and rotation. We have begun this cycle earlier than many other countries.”

“We are all familiar with the expectations and standards. The boys are also aware of these standards. ‘Gats’ is a driving force in upholding them, as well as our coaches. However, reaching our goals will require patience and effort. I spoke to the boys and assured them that I have full confidence in their abilities. There is a lot of promising potential among them and some bright spots. We just need to allow them the necessary time to develop.”

Warren Gatland

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The individual, who is 31 years old, experienced a possible injury to their achilles tendon near the end of the game on Saturday. They will be consulting with a specialist on Monday to evaluate the extent of the injury. Throughout their 13+ year career, they scored a total of 47 tries. This includes setting a Welsh record of 23 tries in the Six Nations tournaments, and reaching the semi-finals or quarter-finals in four separate Rugby World Cups.

In 2013 he played a try-scoring role in the British & Irish Lions series victory in Australia, overseen by Gatland, and was also selected for the 2017 tour to New Zealand. Before his scheduled summer departure across the Channel – Provence are in the French second division and battling for promotion to the Top 14 – North said: “People don’t always get the fairytale ending they want.”

North, who began his career on the wing before switching to centre, added that Gatland resigning in response to a disastrous campaign would be “a cracking headline” but that “it wouldn’t solve much”. Gatland insisted on Saturday that he is committed until the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

“I have spoken with Gats multiple times in the past few months,” North shared. “He knows how to motivate and bring out the best in our team. Despite our struggles, I believe that it will take time to see improvement. The support from the public has been amazing, and I want to encourage everyone to continue having faith in us. I have personally witnessed the incredible talent on this team.”

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In the recent match at Principality Stadium, Monty Ioane, the wing who scored Italy’s initial try, recognized the head coach Gonzalo Quesada for implementing simple improvements to the Azzurri’s performance. Ioane noted, “There were not many changes made in this season, but we have focused on our discipline.”

In the past, we would typically receive 10-11 penalties per game, but last week we only had five. It seems that we are now playing in the appropriate areas on the field.

“Previously, in both the previous season and the World Cup, our focus was on playing from all areas of the field without a clear strategic plan. However, we have since adjusted our approach and are now playing in targeted areas and executing successful exits from our 22-yard line, resulting in positive outcomes for our team.”

Source: theguardian.com