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North return will be huge boost ahead of World Cup; Wales wing hailed by Halfpenny as he prepares for comeback in Dublin.

Byline: RUGBY UNION By ANDREW BALDOCK

LEIGH HALFPENNY believes his fellow Wales star George North's looming return to Test rugby will provide a major pre-World Cup boost.

The juggernaut Northampton wing suffered three concussions in five months last season and has not played since the end of March.

But North's comeback looks likely to begin on Saturday when Wales face a penultimate World Cup warm-up game against Ireland in Dublin.

If the Anglesey-raised 23-year-old features at the Aviva Stadium it will be his 50th Wales appearance, and will arrive less than 48 hours before Wales head coach Warren Gatland names his 31-man World Cup squad to face pool rivals England, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay.

"George is keen to get back playing, and it's great to see him back," Halfpenny said of the former Llangefni, Pwllheli and Rhyl player. "He's a quality player, and it will be great to see him back on the field.

"He is looking great in training, so it will be a real boost to have him back.

"Concussion is a serious injury and it can be very dangerous, so it has to be dealt with in the right way, and the medical staff do deal with that extremely well.

"They make sure the player only comes back when it's completely right for them to play, and that's important."

Gatland is expected to parade most of his big names - Halfpenny and North included - against the reigning Six Nations champions in four days' time before settling on an eagerly-awaited final World Cup combination.

British and Irish Lions trio James Hook, Mike Phillips and Richard Hibbard, who boast 210 Wales caps between them, are among those who have already been cut from World Cup contention, with another seven to miss out on Monday.

Wales were well-beaten by Ireland in their opening World Cup warm-up Test earlier this month, but that 35-21 defeat should mean little in the general scheme of things.

Preparations have also included intensive camps in Switzerland and Qatar, when an extended Wales squad faced a gruelling training regime under Gatland's watchful eye.

Full-back Halfpenny added: "A lot of the camps have been fitness-focused and looking to make gains in fitness and the gym and things like that.

"Now the rugby focus moves in. There is a lot more rugby coming in now.

"You just want to do the job as best you can for the jersey and for the team.

"So even if people are aware of some of our strengths as a team, hopefully, the way we prepare and the plans we have in place can help us still cause problems for opponents.

"We are doing everything we can to make sure that when we step on to that pitch we are as prepared as we can be to go out there, do ourselves, the team and the jersey justice, and to win matches."

Meanwhile, former Wales assistant coach Geraint John has been appointed as the Welsh Rugby Union's elite coach development manager.

Welshman John has resigned as head coach of the Australia men's sevens team, and the WRU announced he will take up his new post from September 7, John was Canada Rugby's high performance director and sevens head coach before moving to Australia as director of sevens in May last year.

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George North, pictured training with Wales team-mates in Colwyn Bay earlier this month, is set to face Ireland on Saturday |
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Aug 25, 2015
Words:570
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