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Dublin: 18 °C Monday 1 June, 2020

'I get told I should retire walking around Tesco': Abuse from fans getting tiresome, says North

The Welsh star opens up about online and offline trolls, and concerns regarding his history of head injuries.

Wales star George North.
Wales star George North.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

GEORGE NORTH HAS opened up about the barrage of online abuse he has had to endure since Wales’ defeat in Ireland.

The British and Irish Lion has 40 tries for his country in 95 games but that still hasn’t stopped him copping flak on social media and even in the supermarket after his side’s Six Nations defence never got off the ground.

The 27-year-old was planning to prove his critics wrong against Scotland before the Six Nations clash was called off on Friday afternoon, but has instead urged the Twitter trolls to think before they tweet after suffering at their hands.

“Social media is a nightmare to be honest,” North said. “It’s a great platform to be so accessible to fans, but the flipside is hard. It’s something I have to deal with on a daily basis.

“You never go out to play badly, but sometimes through your own fault or the team’s you don’t get that. People think it’s OK to say whatever they want. You go through stages where you’ve got to just let it go and you move on and go about your business.

“To have criticism on you constantly is hard. It’s not just on the players – we know when we have had a bad game – but it’s the impact it has on your family as well.

“It’s mad what it does and people think it’s fine. I don’t think they’d ever say it to your face. It is hard and it just seems like people think it is OK to do it. It does have a bearing.

Sometimes I do think, ‘B***** it, I will just can it and become a nomad. I have logged out a few times for a week or two weeks and I have actually really enjoyed it. It has been quite nice not to know what is going on and not be told you are c***.

george-north-and-abraham-steyn North takes on Abraham Steyn of Italy. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

North’s performance in Ireland saw him hammered by Wales fans while the head injury he suffered against France was another stick supporters used to beat the try machine with. That knock was North’s six head blow as a professional.

“It is easy enough to say what you want on a keyboard,” North said. “The whole concussion thing is brilliant. I get told I should retire walking around Tesco!

“If these people were to come into our environment and see the lengths we go to I would hope they would think differently about what they say and do.

When it’s your name the whole time it is difficult not to read it. Your family read it and it gets through eventually. When you put yourself in the shop window, you expect to have some criticism, but when it’s unjust or without any real knowledge or information it does drain hard.

“I do block people when all they say is complete c***. They say ‘You should never play for Wales’ or, ‘Here’s your P45 I’ll sort it out”, but the trolls haven’t got a Scooby Doo about what we do.

“As we go forward it is about understanding the effect abuse can have on individuals, especially when it is all the time.”

North is one of rugby’s biggest names and he admits social media does have its positive side.

The Ospreys back – who is expecting a baby with his wife and former Olympic cyclist Becky James after the Six Nations – says he is happiest when on the field.

But he won’t get a chance to strut his stage against the Scots after the late postponement of their Six Nations finale.

george-north-arrives North on Ospreys duty. Source: ©INPHORyan Byrne

North insists he still has plenty more top-level rugby in him, and says there is no need for fans to worry about his long-term wellbeing despite his history of head injuries.

“My last concussion was in 2016. I was annoyed I didn’t get back on the field against France and I was like a raging bull, but for my own safety it was the best decision,” North said.

“I thank the doctors for looking after me.

I find it funny people assume I don’t go and look for my own advice on my own head stuff. I know when I go and see my guy and if the day comes when he says, ‘I wouldn’t do it’, then that is the day I won’t.

“But until then, the Saturday kick-off is the only thing on my mind. The pitch is the happiest place, there are no distractions, and you are just doing your job.

“Game day is my favourite time of the week.”

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James Candy

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