George North to make Wales comeback after five months out

Winger was knocked unconscious against Wasps in March

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The Independent Online

George North will make his first appearance for five months when Wales continue their World Cup build-up against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday. The Northampton wing suffered three concussions last season and has not played at all since he was knocked unconscious against Wasps on 27 March.

He has passed the required tests and came through a Wales squad training match earlier this month, and is now set to win his 50th cap in a powerful team that also includes Exeter prop Tomas Francis, who makes his debut. The York-born Francis qualifies for Wales through his grandmother, who is from the Swansea Valley.

Ahead of Monday’s final 31-man squad announcement, head coach Warren Gatland has selected a far stronger team than the one beaten 35-21 by Ireland in Cardiff almost three weeks ago.

Centres Scott Williams and Jamie Roberts, half-backs Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb, and back-rowers Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau will also start, with Justin Tipuric wearing the No 7 shirt.

Gatland said: “We have trained well over the past few weeks, and Saturday is a chance for a lot of players to get their first taste of rugby this campaign.”

As Scotland prepare to face Italy at Murrayfield, John Barclay insists he will be able to accept another rejection if he is omitted again.

The Scarlets flanker spent 18 months out of the side as former Scotland head coach Scott Johnson and his successor, the incumbent Vern Cotter, overlooked him. But he will have his chance to prove himself tomorrow when he starts his first match for the Scots since November 2013.

Barclay, who played in both the 2007 and 2011 tournaments, said: “After the last Six Nations I thought they would be looking at different players and I wouldn’t be part of the World Cup group. But Vern spoke to me and told me to just keep my head down and work away.

“I wasn’t playing my rugby in Scotland but I continued to work with the Scarlets coaches and tried to do the best I could,” he added.

“I have much more of a balance in my life now with my family and, although it was hard, it wasn’t the be-all and end-all for me.

“I’m more pragmatic now. When I was with the training squad ahead of the 2007 World Cup, I was worrying every day about being picked, but now I feel pretty relaxed.”