sport

Wales response delights North

George North has underlined how honesty and hard work were key ingredients behind Wales' biggest victory over France for 64 years.

North set the tone with an early try as Wales recovered spectacularly from a Dublin debacle two weeks previously to leave French Grand Slam hopes shredded.

The 27-6 success was Wales' record Six Nations win against Les Bleus and equalled a 21-point margin achieved at Cardiff Arms Park in 1950, while France have now gone four Tests without scoring a try against North and company.

Far more importantly, though, the result put Wales back in contention for Six Nations silverware and revived hopes of achieving an unprecedented title hat-trick.

"No-one likes losing," said North, reflecting on the 26-3 drubbing by Ireland. "The boys hate it and took it pretty hard.

"We shut up shop and came together (after Ireland). I certainly sensed it during last week and this week. The tempo and atmosphere changed, and we got back to where we wanted to be.

"'Gats' (Wales coach Warren Gatland) is an interesting character. He doesn't really hold back. He will speak the truth as to how he is feeling, and I think the boys answered that call.

"There were a lot of serious words and honesty spoken to the boys. Obviously, that showed (against France) when we came out firing on all cylinders.

"The Welsh way has always been that we front up every week. It shouldn't be hard, regardless of the result, but a loss can spur the boys on.

"I think we needed a kick up the backside to get us back on track the Welsh way. We have to take every game as it comes and now just push on hard from this win."

Juggernaut wing North marked his first start as Wales' outside centre by scoring a 16th touchdown in 38 Tests, with skipper Sam Warburton's late score sealing the deal and full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicking 17 points.

Hapless France could only muster penalty replies from half-backs Jules Plisson and Jean-Marc Doussain, while they played half the second period down to 14 men after prop Nicolas Mas and then number eight Louis Picamoles were sin-binned.

Wales now head to Twickenham on March 9, which could see North opposing his Northampton team-mate Luther Burrell if he remains in the centre and does not move back to wing.

"I have already texted him that I'm coming for him. No, I haven't really!" North added. "But we've had some good banter already, and it is good to see him playing well.

"He has got his chance now in the England jersey, which is well deserved.

"I will need to step up and try to prove myself again for the England game, if need be. I like playing on the wing, but we will see what the gaffer says.

"Centre is different. As a wing, I am just reading what the 13 is doing, but when you are 13 then you are making things happen and the wing has to read off you.

"It's quite difficult to try to get used to that. Obviously, I made a few mistakes, but as a first run-out I was pretty happy with that."

Wales won last season's Six Nations despite suffering an early defeat against Ireland, with a 16-6 victory over France in Paris starting the recovery process.

And in terms of this year's title race, North said: "I think we've done everything we can.

"We have now got to wait on a few other results and hopefully they will go our way, which would liven up the Six Nations.

"We've put our best foot forward and got back to form. England will be a tough fixture, but for us now we know we've given ourselves a chance.

"England present different challenges. Twickenham is a difficult place to go, but we will have a couple of days to regroup and do a bit of homework and then get back into it."