Rugby Union

George North to start in Wales' Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Ireland

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Football News

George North will make his first appearance for five months when Wales continue their World Cup preparations by tackling Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

The Northampton wing suffered three concussions last season, while he has not played since being knocked unconscious during Saints' Aviva Premiership victory over Wasps on March 27.

But he has passed all the required tests and successfully came through a Wales squad training match in north Wales earlier this month, with North's return to action also seeing him win a 50th cap as he lines up in a powerful team that also includes York-born Exeter prop Tomas Francis, who makes his Test debut.


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Francis' grandmother hails from the Swansea Valley, and he now has a golden opportunity to press his World Cup claims ahead of next Monday's final 31-man squad announcement.

Ampleforth College product Francis will be joined in the front-row by Gethin Jenkins and Ken Owens, while lock Alun-Wyn Jones captains the team, with regular skipper Sam Warburton not involved in the match-day 23.

North teams up in the back-three alongside Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert, with Cardiff Blues wing Cuthbert possibly needing a big performance in terms of potential World Cup selection.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has selected a far stronger team than the one beaten 35-21 by Ireland in Cardiff almost three weeks ago for the Dublin return.

Also starting are the likes of centres Scott Williams and Jamie Roberts, half-backs Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb, together with experienced back-row campaigners Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau, with Justin Tipuric wearing the number seven shirt.

Gatland said: "The squad are looking forward to travelling over to Ireland for what is a big warm-up fixture.

"We have trained well over the past few weeks, and Saturday is a chance for a lot of players to get their first taste of rugby this campaign.

"We trimmed the squad down in the middle of August, and the remaining 38 (players) have worked extremely hard.

"It's always a great game in Dublin, and there is an important factor to this match, with the Rugby World Cup squad announced just a few days later."

Wales complete their World Cup warm-up schedule against Millennium Stadium visitors Italy on September 5, before launching their pool campaign against Uruguay 15 days later.

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