Wales star George North will edge closer to achieving one of his “biggest goals” when he features in Saturday’s clash against France.
It will be the Ospreys wing’s 96th Wales cap, and with five more games ahead this autumn, there is every chance he could reach a century at the age of 28.
It is an exclusive international rugby club that only five other Wales players have membership of: current captain Alun Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams and Gareth Thomas.
“I know what you are all thinking – I look old enough to do it! But I don’t feel it,” said North.
“For me that is one of my biggest goals, having 100 caps for your country.
“When I started my career, just to have one cap to my name would have been more than enough. I could have quite happily sat in the corner of the pub talking about that for years.
“In that 100-cap bracket you go into a club not many people get to, and hopefully I will achieve that and go on to achieve more.
“But at the moment, I am just looking forward to getting Saturday out of the way and getting back into some rugby and some bruising, and hopefully we can have a good autumn campaign.”
It has been an eventful few months for North, whose double Olympic cycling silver medallist wife Becky gave birth to a son Jac, then North was sent off during an Ospreys game in August and received a four-match ban.
“For the past 10, 11 years of professional rugby, it has always been about me and what I have to do to get ready for Saturday,” he added.
“Obviously, that is still as important as ever, but when you have a small human that relies on you for everything, it makes you realise that in the grand scheme of things it is just a game and you have a family to protect and take care of.
“It certainly puts rugby on a level. It’s brilliant that I can go home and have family time, but in the same breath it’s wicked that I can still go away and play for my country, to play rugby and have that balance.
“In a way, it’s a different pressure now. Can I change a nappy fast enough before he starts crying? That’s real pressure now, isn’t it.”
🗣️ "France are going to come guns blazing and so are we." #FRAvWAL
🇫🇷🏴 Check out our preview for the France versus Wales game, here. 👇 https://t.co/dqr0hSEC3t
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) October 23, 2020
While North closes in on a century of Wales appearances, 19-year-old Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit will make his Test debut if he features off the Wales replacements’ bench in Paris.
Rees-Zammit scored 10 tries in the current Premiership season, and he is viewed as an electrifying talent despite his short time in the professional game.
“He has been playing incredibly well,” said North.
“If you look at the back-three we have got at the moment, he is putting pressure on across the whole back-line, on myself, on Josh (Adams), on Liam (Williams) and ‘Halfers’ (Leigh Halfpenny) to really fight for our positions.
“He is involved this weekend, and hopefully he will get his first cap. I am sure that will be the first of many for him.”