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George North is set to retire from playing for Wales at the end of the Six Nations tournament.
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George North is set to retire from playing for Wales at the end of the Six Nations tournament.

George North has declared his intention to end his career in the international rugby scene after the upcoming Six Nations game against Italy on Saturday.

After earning 120 caps, North was brought back to the Wales team for the decider for the wooden spoon. In a message posted on X, he stated that he has made the decision to retire from international play after the game on Saturday. After 14 years, he believes it is the appropriate time to step down. He expressed his love and gratitude for every moment in a Welsh jersey and the opportunity to play with amazing teammates.

“I am fortunate to have achieved my dream. I am looking forward to the next phase. I want to express my gratitude for all of your support throughout the years. Thank you.”

North is third on the all-time list of men’s most capped players behind Alun Wyn Jones (158) and Gethin Jenkins (129). The 31-year-old is also second on the list of all-time men’s try scorers for Wales with 47, behind Shane Williams on 58.

Expressing his emotions, North stated during a 20-minute press conference at Wales’s training site that his decision was not an easy one. He took pauses to regroup himself as he announced it on social media. In the best interest of his family, North believes this sacrifice is necessary.

“I never imagined this day would arrive – I had hoped it never would – but for me, it’s about having the opportunity to leave on my own terms and fully savoring every second, just as I have for the past 14 years. I plan to embrace this week and Saturday fully, reliving my dream one final time.”

Warren Gatland, Wales’ head coach, said: “George has contributed hugely to Welsh rugby, in an incredible career starting as an 18-year-old. The way that he burst onto the scene. I can remember seeing him play and thinking we need to cap this kid.

George has been exceptional on the rugby field, but his contributions as a person to the team over the years are what truly stand out. He has been a positive and supportive presence within and outside of the group, even going above and beyond in organizing off-the-field matters. I am excited to see George play at Principality Stadium one last time in his red jersey on Saturday, and I invite everyone to join me in honoring him. Thank you, George.

For their match against Italy, Wales will have a new strategy as they enter the Six Nations with four consecutive losses. Despite Sunday’s loss to France at home, coach Gatland has decided to change things up and move player Dafydd Jenkins back to the lock position instead of experimenting by playing him in the back row.

Jenkins returns in the second position to team up with Adam Beard, while North and Nick Tompkins, who were unexpectedly left out of the match against France, replace Joe Roberts and Owen Watkin.

The starting line-up has undergone some changes, with Alex Mann taking over for Will Rowlands as flanker to accommodate Jenkins’ position switch. Keiron Assiratti is replaced by Dillon Lewis at prop in the front row. Despite Ryan Elias’ injury, Elliot Dee maintains his place as hooker from the past weekend. PA Media.

Wales team C Winnett; J Adams, G North, N Tompkins, R Dyer; Costelow, T Williams; G Thomas, E Dee, D Lewis, D Jenkins (capt), A Beard, A Mann, T Reffell, A Wainwright Replacements E Lloyd, K Mathias, H O’Connor, W Rowlands, M Martin, K Hardy, I Lloyd, M Grady

Source: theguardian.com