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Page last updated at 13:19 GMT, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Born for rugby: George North

George North on his debut against South Africa
North on the attack during his debut against South Africa with James Hook and lee Byrne in support

By Richard Thomas
BBC Sport Wales

BBC Cymru Wales' theme for the Six Nations is Born for Rugby - marked by tv trails also on the video sharing site YouTube. We take up that theme by following George North's path from schoolboy to star of the autumn internationals.

It is an early career which could be right out of the pages of a Boys' Own story - the way 18-year-old George North burst on to the international scene in November 2010 scoring two tries on his debut against South Africa.

Standing 6ft 4in and tipping the scales at 16st 7lb it is hard to believe that when Wales sealed the 2005 Grand Slam, North was a 12-year-old watching on the tv at home in Anglesey.

It had only been a year earlier that North - born in Norfolk but raised as a Welsh speaker - was introduced to rugby with a session at Llangefni Rugby Club.

It was the start of an incredible early career which developed apace. After going to Llandovery College he had played just six games for the Scarlets before Wales coach Warren Gatland thrust him to the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium.

The occasion failed to daunt North who crossed twice to become Wales' youngest debutant try scorer.

It is a day which he puts in to its full context.

"[The tries meant] everything. The hours that I have have put in, leaving home early, the hours in in the gym, training, the travelling I had to do from north to south [Wales] - it made everything worthwhile," he said.

But with the peaks of lifting the roof of the Millennium Stadium, not once but twice, has come the trough of injury, which saw him have to undergo shoulder surgery after the autumn internationals leaving him sidelined either side of Christmas.

I have learned the highs of international rugby with South Africa and the highs of the Scarlets and then obviously the lows of the injuries and the losses

George North

North is on the brink of a comeback and hopes to make a return to the Scarlets team for their Magners League clash against Edinburgh on 24 February subject to the go-ahead from the medical staff.

But the lay-off has given North time to reflect on his meteoric rise and the implications of injury.

"[I have been playing] five months of professional rugby now [and] I think I have learned everything about rugby," he said.

"I have learned the highs of international rugby with South Africa and the highs of the Scarlets and then obviously the lows of the injuries and the losses.

"It has been a very frustrating time because I'm one of the guys who just likes to get up every day, put the hours in and come home and rest, and next day do the same and train hard, and to be in a sling is one of the hardest things to get over really.

"But now I'm coming to the end of [the injury] I'm just so ready for it [and] I'm just chomping at the bit to get back."

It took North only seven years to go from rugby novice to fully-fledged international after being persuaded to play junior rugby.

"It originally started with my brother really. Because him and a group of his mates went to the local club - Llangefni - and did a Sunday session.

"He came home and said it was a good laugh, great fun. So the next Sunday I got my boots on and since then it been one love really.

"I was 11. I was a lover of all sports but as soon as I crossed the whitewash with my brother and his friends it was awesome really - loving that rugby atmosphere.

"I played a bit of football when I was younger but as soon as I started rugby I dropped the football to concentrate on that.

George North
North played only six regional matches with the Scarlets before being capped

"I dabbled some of the other sports on the way up, but it's always been rugby really. All I've been concentrating on is a professional and playing for my country.

"I usually played back-row [openside flanker] up until under-15s. I broke my collarbone and came back faster than anyone else. I thought obviously I'd give it a go on the outside and ever since I've never really looked back. I've enjoyed the space to run."

Although English-born to a Welsh mother, North was never in doubt which country he would want to play for and his desire for rugby was boosted by such stars as Shane Williams.

"My old man is English but obviously I went through the whole north Wales system. It didn't really cross my mind. I like the red jersey and I like playing for the country and I've grown up with the players. It's a pleasure to play for them," he revealed.

"Shane was up there [as a hero]. The likes of Gareth Thomas, Steve [Stephen Jones], Hooky [James Hook] and [Gavin] Henson. Obviously at 13 you think 'wow' these players are untouchable and for me that was definitely the case watching them … with my face right up against the screen."

His young rugby career really took off when as a 16-year-old he went to Llandovery College.

"I was struggling to get game time up north so it was a big move [to go to Llandovery]," he said.

"I left home at a young age but made some great mates. I went from not playing that much rugby to playing week in, week out for the college and three regional games in a month.

"It was everything I wanted even though I had to balance the school work because I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. To get game time all the time was great for me and I think it's been good for my progression."


Born for rugby: George North

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see also
North blow for Wales and Scarlets
07 Dec 10 |  Welsh
North can be new Bevan - Davies
15 Nov 10 |  Welsh
North enjoys 'awesome' debut
13 Nov 10 |  Welsh
Gatland hails North qualities
11 Nov 10 |  Welsh
North shocked by Wales call
23 Oct 10 |  Scarlets
North tipped for very big future
29 Sep 10 |  Scarlets

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