George North a doubt for Wales’ encounter with England
Defence coach Robin McBryde reveals Welsh will speak to referee before game in Cardiff
George North attends the Wales captain’s run at the Principality Stadium on Friday before retiring early. Photograph: Getty.
Wales v England
Principality Stadium, Saturday, 4.50pm, live on RTÉ 2 and BBC 1
Wales also revealed on Friday they plan to speak to the referee, Jérôme Garcès, to discuss the scrum and other issues.
North has not trained all week after sustaining a dead leg during the victory against Italy in Rome on Sunday. The wing went out for the captain’s run at the Principality Stadium on Friday morning but was seen heading back to the dressing room after the end of the warm-up exercises.
Wales’s other injury concern, the outhalf Dan Biggar, has recovered from the bruised ribs that forced him off at half-time in Rome and he played a full part in the captain’s run.
“George has been able to do everything that we have asked of him,” the Wales defence coach, Robin McBryde said. “We will give him and Dan as much time leading up to the game and it will be up to Rob [Howley, the interim head coach]. We have contingency plans in place with Alex Cuthbert and Steff Evans still with the squad and it is obviously a close call because we are leaving it late.”
Cuthbert, who scored Wales’s two tries the last time they defeated England in the Six Nations four years ago has filled in for North in training and, having played in two of last autumn’s internationals, would be a more experienced option than the uncapped Evans.
“Any replacement would be ready for England, the second best team in the world. Both Alex and Steff would take the opportunity if it came their way and everyone has their heads on psychologically, preparing the best they can.”
Wales’ wish for the roof to be closed was shattered by the England head coach, Eddie Jones, who played them along all week before announcing just before the deadline for his decision that he wanted it to be open.
“It is going to be dry tomorrow, so I it won’t have that much of an effect on the game,” McBryde said, although if Wales leave themselves as open on the field against England they will suffer a fourth successive Six Nations defeat against their neighbours.
“He probably consulted one or two people before making the decision, but from our end it doesn’t change a lot.”
Jones this week compared Wales to South Africa in the “shenanigans” they get up to before a Test. If the England coach wanted to get a rise out of his opponents, he failed.
McBryde shook his head when asked if he was aware of Jones’s remarks.
“I do not read newspapers and do not listen to a lot,” he said. “I am just focusing on the game. We are playing our neighbours: the English-Welsh rivalry is about wanting to get the better of your neighbour, simple as that.”
Wales were planning to speak to Garcès on Friday. He took charge of the match in Cardiff two years ago which England won and the World Cup group game between the sides at Twickenham later in the year which Wales clinched.
“He has refereed us on previous occasions and there are one or two things we will raise with him,” McBryde said. “We scrummaged very well and legally in Rome and became more dominant as the game went on. We will be looking to do the same again and are forging a reputation as a scrummaging unit.”
WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Thomas Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Nicky Smith, Samson Lee, Cory Hill, Taulupe Faletau, Gareth Davies, Sam Davies, Jamie Roberts.
ENGLAND: Mike Brown; Jack Nowell, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley (capt), Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford, Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: Jamie George, Matt Mullan, Kyle Sinckler, Tom Wood, James Haskell, Danny Care, Ben Te’o, Jonny May.