North happy to go up a gear after honest week
REACTION: George North has admitted that a return to his barn-storming best with a two-try showing in Wales' thrilling Six Nations victory over Ireland was due to moving up a gear after a brutally honest week of introspection.
North's defensive frailties in a disappointing loss to Scotland were highlighted in no uncertain manner in Wales, with swathes of the population and pundits demanding he be dropped.
"If he is selected, I expect George to certainly be on his mettle," was the warning from Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards ahead of the Ireland game which Wales won 22-9 on Friday.
Interim head coach Rob Howley duly kept faith with the giant Northampton wing and was not left disappointed.
Welsh newspaper The Western Mail rated North as 9/10, beating even official man-of-the-match Rhys Webb in their player rankings.
"The All Blacks would have signed off his first-half performance: terrific finish, aggressive tackles, rampaging charges, clean breaks, defenders beaten, the lot," it said.
"Added a second try after break. One question: why did it take a heap of criticism to prompt such a performance?"
North said he had been grateful to have a second chance after the capitulation to the Scots, when Wales shipped 20 unanswered points.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform in the Scotland game, and I didn't get going at all," said the 24-year-old who has won 68 caps since making his debut in 2010 and also picked up three caps for the British and Irish Lions on their winning tour to Australia in 2013.
"It was disappointing, and I was just thankful to get a chance against Ireland to put it right and get back into some form."
North added: "I think the way we played showed what we can do. We went up a gear. It was a hell of a Test match.
"We showed against Ireland what it meant to all of us to go out and really want to put it right.
"It was the hurt. The fact we knew we are much better than we have been, and the fact results didn't go our way.
"The quality of players we have in our squad is amazing, and against Scotland we didn't fire on all cylinders, which really cost us a lot. It's been hard."
North's brace took his tally for Wales to an impressive 30.
"It's berserk, thinking that 2010 was my first game out here, and I am still going now," North said.
"For me, I am just happy to be back playing with a bit of confidence and a bit of form now, and hopefully we can carry it forward into France, individually and as a team."
North refused, however, to get carried away with thoughts of touring with the Lions, again under the stewardship of seconded Wales coach Warren Gatland, to New Zealand in June.
"It is far too far ahead. We will enjoy our two days off, and then come back in on Monday and focus on a big week," he said.