Last updated at 11:24 PM on 27th September 2011
The boy wonder of the World Cup went through a familiar routine On Tuesday, with Wales set for their first quarter-final in eight years.
‘I pinch myself every morning,’ said George North. ‘And again every night just to make sure this isn’t all a dream.’
He has been pinching himself twice a day for the last 10 months since introducing himself to the Test arena by scoring two tries against the Springbok flier, Bryan Habana.
Big impact: George North fends off Theuns Kotze of Namibia
The giant 19-year-old has come so far, so quickly, from Llangefni Rugby Club on Anglesey to superstar, that it takes some believing.
He played his first match as a professional 12 months ago, scoring twice for the Scarlets against Treviso in the Celtic League. After four more appearances, Wales
had seen enough to pick him with a speed which left England floundering.
By the time they discovered North had an English father and an English birthplace — King’s Lynn — he had already given Habana the runaround.
‘Opting for England was never discussed,’ said North, whose father, David, moved from Norfolk to Anglesey shortly after his son’s birth. ‘I went through the under-age system with rugby and my old man backed me like the good old man he is. It was always going to be the red of Wales for me.’
Big moment: North scores his first try in the World Cup
Only one player, Chris Ashton, has out-tried North in the last year. The England wing’s 11 in 12 matches beat North’s eight in 11.
But, then again, Ashton is five years older at 24, having started in rugby league. Indeed, when it comes to being a try-scoring Test player in his teens, North leaves everyone behind.
All the highest scorers in Test rugby, including David Campese, Shane Williams, Rory Underwood, Christian Cullen, Joe Rokocoko and Jeff Wilson, were out of their teens when they opened their accounts. Brian O’Driscoll was 21 when he scored a hat-trick against France.
North, who will not reach 20 until after next year’s Six Nations, has already outstripped every other teenager, most notably the Irishman who became the ketchup king of American business.
Tony O’Reilly, who made a fortune as chief executive of Heinz, played eight internationals as a teen during the Fifties, scoring twice for Ireland and twice more for the Lions against the Springboks.
Ready to pounce: North looks on at a scrum
A privileged education at one of Dublin’s foremost rugby schools, Blackrock College, gave O’Reilly a flying start. North has come up the hard way, from a distant corner of north Wales where rugby struggles to compete with the soccer rivalry of Liverpool and Manchester.
From the age of 14 at his local club, Llangefni, North made a big enough impact to win a scholarship to Llandovery College.
‘My brother joined Llangefni and he’d come home from every match ranting about the club,’ North said. ‘As the jealous younger brother, I wanted a piece of the action. I played on the open side of the back row, then centre, full back and wing — anywhere as long as I got a game.’
Wales, who play Fiji on Sunday, have started toying with the idea of lining North alongside Jamie Roberts in what would be the game’s biggest centre partnership. ‘I have dabbled a bit in that position,’ North said. ‘I’ve done a few training sessions there. Maybe it’s a case of keeping all options open.’
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