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George North enjoys a second life as the Welsh star prepares for the 99th Test appearance in France

George North’s blinders are off as he gallops to his 100th Test.

The new dad has opened his eyes to a new world since he last wore Welsh red, and is feeling more comfortable ahead of his 99th international against France in Paris on Saturday.

In lockdown, his wife, former Olympic cyclist Becky James, brought life to Jac and North’s world changed forever.

Georeg North has had his life in the spotlight since his two-try debut as a teenager

Georeg North has had his life in the spotlight since his two-try debut as a teenager

“It’s everything, isn’t it?” he says when asked what has changed since the arrival of his son.

‘I don’t know how to explain it. For the past 10, 11 years of professional rugby it has always been about me and what I need to do to get ready for Saturday.

Of course, that’s still as important as ever, but when you have a little human who relies on you for everything, you realize that in the big picture it’s just a game and you have a family to protect and nurture from. It certainly puts rugby on a level.

“It’s great that I can go home and have family time, but in the same breath it’s bad that I can still go out and play for my country, play rugby and have that balance.”

North has been in the spotlight for a decade now, since his stormy two-try debut as a teenager, speaking before the canceled Six Nations game against Scotland about the intense pressure that constant surveillance brings.

Now he is more at ease.

“In a way, it’s a different pressure now,” he adds.

Can I change a diaper soon enough before it starts crying?

‘That’s really busy right now, isn’t it? For me, when it comes to guys and their partners having kids, you may only have two or three days before you go back to work.

‘I had nine weeks that I would never have in a normal situation. For me that is priceless.

“There is never a shining light from a pandemic, but for me that was the only good thing I could have that time. I couldn’t put a price on that now.

‘My goals never really change. They just kind of been put on hold. You can’t really prepare for Covid and the effect it has had, not just on the sport, but on the world, and for me those goals are still my main focus. They are what drives me and with Jac coming up, that takes a little pressure off.

The new dad has opened his eyes to a new world since he last wore Welsh red

The new dad has opened his eyes to a new world since he last wore Welsh red

The new dad has opened his eyes to a new world since he last wore Welsh red

‘Rugby is just a game, but for me that’s why we get up early, put in the hours and go through everything to get that, so as such my goals haven’t really changed.

“It just makes me focus on them now.” One goal sure to be scored next week is his 100th international – if you count his three Lions appearances. Reaching that mark at 28 is a remarkable achievement.

“I know what you all think – I look old enough to do it, but I don’t feel it,” North smiles in front of the French friend.

‘For me that is one of my biggest goals, 100 international matches for your country. When I started my career it was more than enough to have one cap in my name.

‘I could have enjoyed talking about that in the corner of the pub for years.

“ In that 100 cap disc you go to a club where not many people come and hopefully I’ll get to that and achieve more, but right now I’m just looking forward to getting out of the way on Saturday and going back to a some rugby and some bruises and hopefully we can have a good fall campaign. ‘

What adds to that focus is the fact that 19-year-old speedster Louis Rees-Zammit, on the couch, is chasing North. Wales boss Wayne Pivac sees this as an autumn of renewal and will give young blood a chance.

“Zamm plays incredibly well,” says North. “If you look at the three backs we have right now, Zamm is putting pressure on the entire back line to really fight for our positions.

North and his wife Becky shared a first public photo of baby Jac on social media

North and his wife Becky shared a first public photo of baby Jac on social media

North and his wife Becky shared a first public photo of baby Jac on social media

Hopefully he gets his first cap. I’m sure this will be the first of many, many for him. North also plans to continue, freer now that his eyes have been opened.

“It’s everything, isn’t it?” he said when asked what has changed since the arrival of his son.

‘I don’t know how to explain it. For the past 10, 11 years of professional rugby it has always been about me and what I need to do to get ready for Saturday.

Of course, that’s still as important as ever, but when you have a little human who relies on you for everything, you realize that in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a game and you need to provide a family. It certainly puts rugby on a level.

“It’s great that I can go home and have family time, but in the same breath it’s bad that I can still go out and play for my country, play rugby and have that balance.”

North will play a 100th international this fall and cannot wait to join the centurions.

“For me that is one of my biggest goals, 100 caps for your country,” he added.

“When I started my career, it was more than enough to have one cap in my name.”

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