George North: Wing says Wales can cope with World Cup expectations

George North has scored 36 tries in 83 Tests for Wales
George North has scored 36 tries in 83 Tests for Wales

Wing George North believes Wales can handle expectations of being one of the 2019 World Cup favourites.

Wales are ranked second in the world after winning 14 consecutive games which included the Grand Slam triumph in March.

The squad are currently preparing for the World Cup which starts in September in Japan.

"I think we're the best position we've ever been in," said North.

Ospreys wing North, 27, is part of a 42-man training squad that will be whittled down to 31 by the beginning of September.

Wales will have training camps in Switzerland and Turkey and home and away matches against England and Ireland before opening their World Cup against Georgia on 23 September.

"The squad's been in a great place for the last two years," said North.

"It's a great mixture of not only young and old players, a settled number and everyone knows who they are and what they're doing.

"The most brutal thing now is cutting down from 40-odd to 31 and being ready to go."

North believes Wales will be able to cope with being one of the World Cup favourites with only holders New Zealand ranked above Warren Gatland's side.

"I think we can (handle those expectations)," said North.

"Historically we've always been the underdogs going into the World Cup and we've often struggled in the Six Nations before it.

"Now if you look at the Six Nations and (2018) Autumn series, we slogged games out when we shouldn't have.

"We've probably been guilty in the past of not being able to close games out when we should have and they were there for the taking.

George North modelling the 2019 World Cup kit
George North modelling the 2019 World Cup kit

"The development of this team has taken a big step forward for going toe to toe and going the extra mile in those last 10 or 15 minutes.

"We haven't faded away, we've been able to push on again and get results when we've historically flaked away and lose at the end.

"Those younger boys coming through now have got a lot of experience and that's good for the senior boys driving up standards.

"The general feeling in the squad is is good, and in a weird way we're enjoying each other's pain and knowing that someone else is struggling with you in training."

Despite their record breaking 14-match run, North believes Wales have more to offer as he prepares for his third World Cup.

"We probably put a 60-minute performance in against England and probably the same against Ireland," said North.

"For us, there is probably another two or three levels in there and the benefit of the World Cup is that it brings out the best in everyone.

"We know what's at stake, it's just about getting that full 80-minute performance consistently.

"That's something that will come out in the next few weeks in camp. If we can get that squad belief again, we've definitely got another level in us."

Wales players who missed the end of last season through injuries all took some part in a training session on Saturday.

Bath back-rower Taulupe Faletau (broken arm), Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler (knee) and Ospreys centre Scott Williams (back) were involved in the main session.

Leicester wing Jonah Holmes (hamstring) and Scarlets flanker James Davies (foot) trained separately, while Dragons captain Cory Hill (ankle) and prop Rob Evans (shoulder) took part in an exercise bike session.

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