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Reports of George North's demise are greatly exaggerated, says Schmidt

“If you’ve seen the size, the strength and the speed and agility of such a big man, why would you go looking for him?”

Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt expects the best of Welsh wing George North when the sides meet in Cardiff on Friday.

The powerful Northampton Saints star was named in an unchanged Welsh starting XV for the penultimate Six Nations clash despite many feeling he deserved to be dropped following the loss to Scotland last time out.

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards made a half-hearted attempt to defend North’s performances early this week, and ended up pointing to the amount of scores Wales have conceded down North’s right wing:

“We’ve conceded tries on our edge, usually our right edge. One on the left side,” Edwards noted.

“They were individual mistakes because they didn’t do what they practiced in the build-up. They decided to do what they wanted and not what the rest of their team-mates expected them to do.”

Asked if the presence of the Lions wing could be capitalised on by Ireland’s attack, Schmidt was full of praise for North.

“If you’ve seen the size, the strength and the speed and agility of such a big man, why would you go looking for him?

“I know it doesn’t leave you a lot of options, because (Jonathan) Davies and Scott Williams are no shrinking violets either, and Liam Williams was an absolute superstar against New Zealand.

They do have a lot of threats across the board, and I don’t think we’re willfully going to go looking for George North, to see if his defensive game is up to it. Because we’ve seen him do incredibly well defensively.”

The Kiwi added:  “what could be a bad day one day for a player, and I didn’t think (the Scotland game) was a shocking day by any means, there’s been a fairly tough reaction to such a good player, and he’s a nice fella as well, any time I’ve chatted to him.

“So I think he will have a big one, unfortunately. And I’m sure he’s highly motivated to have a really good game, as are the rest of the Welsh 15.

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“They are so used to competing on the last day of the Championship to win or lose the Championship. So for them not to be in that position will certainly provide extra motivation for them.”

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