George North has declared himself fully fit after being named in Warren Gatland’s initial 47-man Wales squad for World Cup training. However, doubts remain about the Northampton wing’s full participation.
North has not played since March after being stood down by neurologists following the third in a series of concussions but will join the squad at the Welsh Rugby Union Centre of Excellence in the Vale of Glamorgan on 15 June, However, backs coach Rob Howley admitted: “Whether he will sit out pre-World Cup matches will be guided by George and the medical team. He has passed the running protocols but has got to pass the contact stage. So he’s fine in terms of his running – there’s no ill-effects. What we don’t know is if contact will bring back the signs of concussion.”
North was more confident. “I’m OK thanks, it’s been a bit of a long road,” he admitted of his struggle to fight off the effects of the concussions. “I’m feeling fit and well now and looking forward to what’s ahead. It’s a lot better. It took a bit longer than I was hoping initially but you’ve only got the one head and you’ve got to look after it.”
North is one of 17 players with previous World Cup experience called up by Gatland. In contrast to Stuart Lancaster’s policy of only selecting home-based players for Pool A rivals England, a quarter of Gatland’s picks play their club rugby in either England or France.
Gloucester back-row forward Ross Moriarty, whose father, Paul, represented Wales, is named among 25 forwards, along with Bath lock Dominic Day, Exeter tight-head prop Tomas Francis, Wales’ Under-20 captain Rory Thornton and Cardiff hooker Kristian Dacey. Newcomers among the backs are Ospreys wing Eli Walker, New Zealand-born fly-half Gareth Anscombe, and Dragons centres Jack Dixon and Tyler Morgan.
The biggest surprises in Gatland’s squad are a recall for Exeter wing Tom James after five years, and the absence of the in-form back-row duo of James Davies and Josh Navidi.
“The easy part for the players has been done in terms of being selected, the hard work will begin from day one with a huge schedule of preparation ahead of them,” said Gatland of separate training camps in Switzerland, Qatar and Poland.”
Prop Samson Lee, who has been out with an Achilles injury, is included in the hope that he will be fit for first of two warm-up games against Ireland, on 8 August.
Wales, whose squad will be whittled down to 31 players on 31 August, start their World Cup campaign against Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium on 20 September.Reuse content