News emerging from New Zealand will have Welsh rugby fans holding their head in their hands as talismanic winger George North has been officially ruled out of the remainder of Wales’ summer tour of New Zealand.
Wales suffered a 39-21 defeat to the All Blacks at the weekend in which North was one of their standout performers. In a hard-fought battle in which the final scoreline did not reflect the close-fought match, North was key and was a terror with the ball in hand.
However, the wing pulled up lame towards the end of the game with a hamstring issue. A subsequent examination confirmed the worst fears of the squad and fans.
“North suffered a hamstring injury in the first Test in Auckland, ruling him out of Wales’ remaining games,” the WRU said in a statement.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) June 12, 2016
The loss of North is a huge blow to the asiprations of head coach Warren Gatland as he looks to rewrite the history books and end the six-decade losing streak Wales have suffered at the hands of New Zealand.
Already without numerous first XV starters, including Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert, the addition of North to this growing injury list means that Gatland must now rely more heavily on fringe players and is already working on contingencies, with U-20 sensation Keelan Giles reportedly flying out to New Zealand to link up with the squad.
And Gatland says the forced changes are something of an opportunity for others to showcase themselves (via the Daily Mail):
“Coming all the way to New Zealand, it was important we had a big enough squad for the three Tests but also to provide game time for the players on tour.”
With the Chiefs awaiting Wales next, Gatland has named only two members of the New Zealand Test in the 23-man squad so those hoping to catch the eye of the coach now have their chance.
As for North, a spell on the sidelines awaits and a race to regain fitness in time for the domestic season in the autumn.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena