George North: Wales star to retire from international rugby after Six Nations vs Italy

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Wales’ centre George North has confirmed he will retire from international rugby after the Six Nations.

The 31-year-old will make his final appearance for Wales during their match against Italy on Saturday at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

North wrote on X: “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.”

North made his international debut for Wales at the 2010 end-of-year Tests and has won 120 caps for his country.

North has been recalled to the Wales team for what is a wooden-spoon decider against Italy on Saturday.

He was omitted from the starting line-up in Wales’ 45-24 defeat to France and replaces Joe Roberts, with his fellow centre Nick Tompkins returning instead of Owen Watkin.

Two other changes are in the pack, where Harlequins prop Dillon Lewis is preferred to Keiron Assiratti and Cardiff flanker Alex Mann packs down alongside back-row colleagues Tommy Reffell and Aaron Wainwright.

Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins, who featured at blindside flanker against France, returns to the second row alongside Adam Beard, with Will Rowlands dropping to the bench.

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France beat Wales 45-24 during the Six Nations match at the Principality Stadium on Sunday

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

“The way that he burst on to 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 has organised off the field.

Wales players line up for the national anthem during the Six Nation ahead of their fixture against France
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Wales players line up for the national anthem during the Six Nation ahead of their fixture against France

“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: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Tomos Williams; 1 Gareth Thomas, 2 Elliot Dee, 3 Dillon Lewis, 4 Dafydd Jenkins (c), 5 Adam Beard, 6 Alex Mann, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: 16 Evan Lloyde, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Harri OConnor, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mason Grady.

Italy full-back Capuozzo ruled out

Italy full-back Ange Capuozzo has been ruled out of Saturday’s Six Nations wooden spoon decider.

Capuozzo, who created Italy’s winning try when they beat Wales in Cardiff two years ago, is sidelined after breaking a finger in his left hand, the Italian Rugby Federation said.

Zebre Parma’s Lorenzo Pani will wear the No 15 shirt, with two other changes from the side that defeated Scotland 31-29 last weekend seeing starts for Gloucester scrum-half Stephen Varney and Benetton No 8 Lorenzo Cannone.

Italy's Ange Capuozzo is tackled by France's Gael Fickou during the Six Nations rugby union international between France and Italy at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)
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Italy’s Ange Capuozzo has been ruled out with a broken finger

Italy will avoid finishing bottom of the Six Nations table for a ninth successive season if they defeat Wales, and they go into the game four points above their hosts.

Italy: 15 Lorenzo Pani, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney; 1 Danilo Fischetti, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 3 Simone Ferrari, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 5 Federico Ruzza, 6 Sebastian Negri, 7 Michele Lamaro (c), 8 Lorenzo Cannone.

Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Andrea Zambonin, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Manuel Zuliani, 22 Martin Page Relo, 23 Leonardo Marin.

Gatand: The squad is hungry to win

Among the replacements are uncapped Scarlets prop Harri O’Connor and Cardiff hooker Evan Lloyd, who made his Test debut against France.

Wales have not finished bottom of the Six Nations since 2003, when they lost all five games, but that fate now awaits them if they fail to beat Italy.

Wales are currently four points adrift of the Azzurri, who will arrive in Cardiff following a victory over Scotland and a draw with France.

Bonus points could still come into the equation in terms of deciding which team props up the table, yet Wales are in control of their own destiny.

Gatland added: “This is an important game for us. We definitely don’t want to finish bottom, and the squad is hungry to win.

“Italy have quality players throughout the side and have been good at taking opportunities when they get them to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

“We are excited and will step up and welcome the challenge ahead.

“We are still looking for that 80-minute performance and have spoken about needing to be better in the big moments, especially.

“We understand that external pressure and expectation comes with international rugby.

“It is about embracing that, continuing the hard work and fronting up in training to go out there and be accurate and disciplined on Saturday.”

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