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George North to retire from international rugby

George North during training. Credit: WRU

George North has confirmed he will retire from international rugby following Wales’ final Six Nations match in the 2024 Championship against Italy on 16 March at Principality Stadium (KO 2.15pm. Live on BBC and S4C).

Speaking on social media Wales’ most-capped men’s back said: “I’ve decided that the game on Saturday will bring my international career to an end.

“After 14 years it feels like now is the right time to step away. I have loved and cherished every second in a Welsh shirt and been able to play alongside some fantastic teammates.

“I’ve been very lucky to have lived my dream. I’m excited for the next chapter. Thank you all for your support over the years. Diolch.”

In an international career spanning 14 years, 120 cap North is third on the all-time list of men’s most capped players behind Alun Wyn Jones (158) and Gethin Jenkins (129).

North is second on the list of all-time men’s try scorers for Wales with 47, behind Shane Williams (58), and will be hoping to add to that tally in his final outing in a red jersey against the Italy on the weekend.

George North broke news of his international retirement on Instagram

Wales senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland said: “George has contributed hugely to Welsh rugby, in an incredible career starting as an 18-year-old.

“The way that he burst onto the scene. I can remember seeing him play and thinking we need to cap this kid.

“He’s been incredible as a rugby player, but I think the most important thing is how he’s contributed to the squad as a person over the years. How positive and encouraging he’s been within and around the group, things that people wouldn’t have seen in terms of what he’s organised off the field.

“George has been outstanding and a credit to himself. He can definitely hold his head high. He and his family and friends can be very proud of everything he has achieved.

“I look forward to watching George play at Principality Stadium one final time in a red jersey on Saturday and I hope everyone will join me in celebrating him. Diolch George.”

Wales senior men’s international number 1078, North burst on to the international stage in 2010 as an 18-year-old when he scored twice against South Africa on his debut at the Millennium Stadium.

On that day, 13 November, he became the youngest player in almost 117 years to score a try on his debut for Wales – he was 18 years, 214 days, beating Tom Pearson, who was aged 18 years, 238 days when he scored against England in 1891.

He is the third youngest player to play for Wales behind his former Wales U18 teammate Tom Prydie and Norman Biggs.

His two tries against Nambia at the 2011 Rugby World Cup made him the youngest try scorer at the tournament – aged 19 years and 166 days – ahead of Australian Joe Roff. He won 20 caps for Wales as a teenager and became the first teenager in world rugby to score 10 Test tries. On 28 February, 2015, he became the youngest player to reach 50 international caps when Wales played France (Wales 47 caps, Lions 3). He reached 50 caps for Wales on 29 August, 2015, in the World Cup warm-up win over Ireland in Dublin.

Although born in England, he was raised in north Wales from the age of two and went to school on Anglesey, Ysgol Uwchradd Bodedern. He played junior rugby at the Llangefni, Pwllheli and Rhyl clubs and helped a North Wales U16 XV beat the Scarlets. He then won a rugby scholarship to Llandovery College, where he was converted from second row to outside centre. He played for Wales U16 and U18 and went into the Scarlets Academy. He scored twice on his Scarlets debut against Benetton Treviso in September, 2010.

He left the Scarlets after starring with the British & Irish Lions in Australia, when he scored in the first and third Tests as the Lions won the series 2-1. He made a second tour with the Lions in 2017, but failed to break into the Test team for the drawn series against New Zealand after suffering a hamstring injury.

His move to Northampton Saints in 2013 saw him become an English Premiership winner at Twickenham in May, 2014, when Saints beat Saracens. He returned to Wales on a National Dual Contract with the Ospreys at the start of the 2018/19 season.

He scored Wales’ first Six Nations try hat-trick against Italy in Rome in 2015 and set Welsh records of 473 metres gained, 12 clean breaks and 26 defenders beaten in the 2016 campaign when he was the tournament’s top try scorer with four.

North helped Wales win Grand Slams in 2012 and 2019 and the Six Nations title in 2013 and 2021. His two tries in the win over France in Paris in 2019 set-up the bid for the third clean-sweep of Warren Gatland’s reign.

In 2023, North was selected for his fourth Rugby World Cup when named in the Wales squad for the tournament in France. He scored tries against Fiji and Georgia to take his RWC overall try tally to six.