Despite leading a rousing rendition of an Oasis classic in the bowels of the Principality Stadium on Saturday night, Wales’ George North only needs to look back with pride, not in anger, at what he has achieved in the game.
North became the youngest player to win a century of caps for his country when he took to the field for the 40-24 win against England, aged just 28 years and 320 days, beating the record set by Michael Hooper last October by 28 days.
“What a day! 100 caps and the triple crown, couldn’t have asked for a better day,” North tweeted, once the dust had settled on the victory.
The winger, currently being deployed by Wales at outside centre, first announced his arrival in the test arena with a brace of tries against South Africa on debut, at what was then called the Millennium Stadium in November 2010. “For me, that was just a dream played out,” he told Sam Warburton in a recent BBC interview.
Wales were beaten 29-25 by the Springboks that day but the majority of tests North has played in have been won – 56 wins compared to 42 defeats, with two draws thrown in for good measure.
Since that double on debut, North has added a further 40 tries for his country, including one in the 21-16 win against Ireland in the opening round of Six Nations 2021, as well as scoring twice for the British and Irish Lions on the successful tour of Australia in 2013.
North scored an absolutely belting try when the Lions were 7-3 down in the first test, collecting the ball 60 metres out before using his speed and body swerve to beat the Wallaby defence on the outside.
And then, in the second test in Melbourne, Israel Folau came out on the wrong end of a wrestling move, when North picked him up, hoisted him on his shoulder and marched him back, prompting light-hearted talk of a career change.
“I was never allowed to watch much wrestling as a kid because my mum always thought it was too violent. The boys are saying I should move to America and throw some men around for a living,” he said at the time.
PIC: Here's George North's amazing fireman's lift on Israel Folau pic.twitter.com/SCroLQC5ao— Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) June 29, 2013
A long road
North has become Wales’ sixth player to win a century of caps after current captain Alun Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Stephen Jones, Gareth Thomas and Martyn Williams.
“I never thought I would even get one cap for Wales, let alone 100,” he admitted.
“It has been a long road – a load of ups and downs – but it has been worth every single second. I never thought I would get here, so I am really chuffed.
“When you are in the pressure pot, the mixer, you don't really have much time (to think about records), you are on to the next job or the next fixture. They come thick and fast.
“I am sure there will be a time when I am sat there with a coffee telling Jac (North's son) that I used to play rugby once and I was half-decent, but he will probably laugh it off!
“To be able to say I played for Wales is incredible, but to say I was in a very rare club of 100 caps is very special.”
North’s power and pace have proved a potent combination over the years, for Wales, the Lions, the Ospreys, Scarlets and in the English Premiership with Northampton.
At Saints, North enjoyed a spectacular first season, winning the Premiership and the European Challenge Cup in 2014.
“He is an unbelievable player and when he is on his game, he is one of the best in the business,” said former Saints winger and coach, Paul Diggin, who was 20kg lighter and 20cm smaller than North in his playing days.
“After that Lions tour (2013), he was amazing. He is a genetic freak. I hated how big and strong he was compared to me.
“For a young man to have done what he has done, and win as many caps as he has done at his age, is unbelievable.”