By Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent
Wales star George North has spoken of his pride after moving into the all-time top 10 of international rugby union try scorers.
North’s early touchdown against Guinness Six Nations opponents France was his 46th for Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
It put him level with New Zealand trio Christian Cullen, Joe Rokocoko and Julian Savea, and just one behind Irish great Brian O’Driscoll.
He also closed the gap to 14 on Wales’ record try-scorer Shane Williams, with the 30-year-old Ospreys centre showing no sign of his finishing power waning; he also overtook Williams as his country’s leading Six Nations finisher on 23.
“It has been a long road and a tough road, but it is something I am very proud and honoured to have achieved,” North said.
“Hopefully, there are a few more in me. I hope Shane is sweating, but there is a lot to go.”
Wales head coach Warren Gatland suggested in the build-up to facing France that it might potentially be the final Six Nations game for “up to eight” of his current squad.
Congratulations to George North for becoming Wales’ outright record try scorer in the @SixNationsRugby 🏴
𝗟𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴𝘆𝗳𝗮𝗿𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗮𝗱𝗮𝘂 🖤#OurJourneyTogether pic.twitter.com/QK3CtZfA91
— Ospreys (@ospreys) March 19, 2023
Nine of the starting line-up in Paris were aged 30 or over, yet North remains one of Wales’ most valuable players as he builds towards a potential fourth World Cup later this year.
“I am not sure if I make the cut or not, but we will see,” North added.
“Any time you put the jersey on it could be your last game with performance, young boys coming through, injuries… so you have to take it with both hands.”
Wales have three games left before the World Cup – warm-up fixtures against England (twice) and South Africa – but significant preparation work will be done in planned summer training camps.
On the back of just four wins in their last 17 Tests and a fifth-placed Six Nations finish, there is a lot to be done.
But the second-half display against France, when Wales scored three tries to finish with a bonus point after trailing 34-7, provided cause for optimism, even though France ran out 41-28 victors.
North said: “The focus was going back to how we know we can play, that high-tempo, physical game, trying to get the ball around the park a bit more.
“There were glimpses of that in Italy, and we showed more glimpses, but there is more growth in us.
Well done @George_North on becoming @WelshRugbyUnion top try scorer in the @SixNationsRugby This picture looks like I’m giving you some sound advice but the truth is you didn’t need it! 😉 pic.twitter.com/CCMedYfDo3
— Shane Williams (@ShaneWilliams11) March 19, 2023
“The start of the Six Nations was unlike us, with new coaches coming in and a new ethos. The magical story would have been a Grand Slam, but reality hits.
“Ideally, we would have been fizzing through the tournament, but we have fought back.
“We go back to our clubs and work hard and it’s straight back into the deep end with selection and (national training) camps for the World Cup.
“We haven’t had that conversation (about World Cup minimum targets) but after the last few weeks in the Six Nations and what has been well-documented (off the field issues), the boys will celebrate Taulupe (Faletau) on his his 100th cap and Dillon (Lewis) his 50th – huge milestones – then we will review it all and focus on the World Cup.”