George North: Wales winning a Six Nations Grand Slam would cap a ‘mental year’

Completing the Grand Slam would mark a stunning turnaround for Wales after a “mental year” but they will have to take their game up another level to secure victory over France on Saturday, says George North.

Wales won one match to finish fifth in last year’s Six Nations and were beaten by England, Ireland, Scotland and France in the autumn to top off a forgettable year.

However, they have been transformed in 2021, winning all four of their matches in this year’s Six Nations, including a 48-7 win over Italy in Rome on Saturday.

  • Wales demolish Italy to stay on course for Grand Slam
  • Jones: Wales unfazed by Paris showdown

North, who is looking to seal his third Grand Slam after successes in 2012 and 2019, said: “It would be a decent one to add on to the story of 2021 after last year. It’s been a mental year for everyone involved from the autumn series to what we’re playing for on Saturday.

“We know we have to be ready and how potent France are. To go to that next level we need to be at we’ve got to really up our game.”

North, who became the youngest player to reach 100 Test caps for Wales during the campaign, said the team had flown under the radar because of their woeful 2020.

“After the autumn series there wasn’t much hype about us, which is always good because we like to be underdogs,” North said. “The hard work the boys put in over the autumn and the early part of the Six Nations is really coming true now.

“We’re far from the finished article as it is now but we’ve still got to take some positives out of this performance against Italy and fully focus on next week.”

Jones: Wales unfazed by Paris showdown

Alun Wyn Jones says Wales will embrace the challenge of entering uncharted Six Nations Grand Slam territory in Paris next Saturday.

Wales will complete their fifth tournament clean sweep if they topple France but it is also a new experience for Jones and company, with Wales’ previous Six Nations Grand Slams – in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2019 – all secured on home soil in Cardiff.

“It is an away game decider, and we are not going to shy away from that,” said Wales captain Jones.

“We know the significance away games have in this competition.

“It is one we have not experienced before [in terms of a Grand Slam], and it is going to be another week of weeks leading up to the game on Saturday.”

Wales lost on their last visit to Paris five months ago in a warm-up encounter for the delayed Six Nations game against Scotland and the Autumn Nations Cup campaign that followed it.

But their recent Six Nations record in the French capital is a strong one, having beaten Les Bleus three times from the last four visits.

Molte grazie, @Federugby 🔴🔵

Jones, meanwhile, will become the first player to win four Six Nations Grand Slams if Wales can secure victory at the Stade de France.

“In many ways, it is a similar situation [to the autumn] with no fans away in France, and that was a clinical game by them,” Jones added.

“But that was before the start of a competition in a different situation. I don’t want to be over the top, but the world had changed and we were going into a competition [Autumn Nations Cup] that we had not experienced before.

“We are a bit further down the line now with no crowds, where we are with the game and all that is going on to make it happen.

“I think we have dealt with that, but we still have to go up a few gears to go there and perform.”

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