Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 June 2019

Six Nations 2019: Wales prepared for 'exceptional' England, says George North

Winner of Saturday's match between only two unbeaten sides left in this year's championship will be on course for Grand Slam

George North says Wales must be ready for an England side 'on top of their game' when the Six Nations leader visit Cardiff on Saturday. AFP
George North says Wales must be ready for an England side 'on top of their game' when the Six Nations leader visit Cardiff on Saturday. AFP

Wales winger George North expects England's "exceptional" tactics in both attack and defence to cause them problems in their Six Nations clash but are prepared to take them on in Cardiff on Saturday.

The visitors are top of the Championship table after victories over holders Ireland and France and two bonus points have given them an outright lead over Wales, who are looking to set a record of 12 consecutive wins.

"England have been in great form, both sides of the ball. They have been exceptional tactically," North, who has 80 caps for Wales, told The Guardian.

"They have great line-speed, are strong defensively and they have good variation in attack through their kicking game and strike plays. Their matches this year have probably had a bit more rugby than ours and they are certainly in a good place.

"We have the opportunity to put ourselves in a great position. The boys know what is at stake and, come the weekend, we will have had the best preparation."

North also said that Warren Gatland's side have not produced their best performances despite victories over France and Italy earlier this month.

"We made a slow start in France, then brought it back, and Italy was a tough place to go having made so many changes," North added.

"As Warren says, winning is a habit: ugly or pretty, you have to win wherever you go."

England No 8 Billy Vunipola said he would need to step up his game against Wales in the absence of his brother Mako Vunipola and Maro Itoje due to injuries.

Prop Mako sustained an ankle injury in England's 44-8 win over France ruling him out of the tournament while lock Maro Itoje has not recovered from a knee injury.

"It'll be tough because we're missing my brother though we have great players to replace him," Billy told Sky Sports News.

"Also, we're missing Maro so it's probably a good week for me to try and play a better game than I have been in the last two weeks."

Injuries have plagued the 26-year-old forward in the last few months, with three arm fractures apart from shoulder and knee issues stalling his progress.

But the younger Vunipola believes his steady improvement in recent weeks can help him deliver a good performance in Cardiff.

"I've been OK. I've been out of the international fold on a consistent basis for a while. I think it is important that I try and have a good game on Saturday," he added.

"I do feel there is more to come. It's easy when you are in this environment to have the best foods and drop a little bit of weight ... I've dropped a few kilos so hopefully I can produce something close to my best at the weekend."

Victory for either side at the Principality Stadium would make them favourites for the title and a potential Grand Slam.

Updated: February 21, 2019 01:54 PM

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