George North still dreaming of Wales Six Nations return after long injury lay-off
George North still believes he could feature for Wales at the back end of the Six Nations as he prepares to return from a gruelling knee injury lay-off.
The star back, who has successfully converted from wing to outside centre with Wales, has the most international tries of all current players in the world game.
However, an anterior crucial ligament (ACL) blow has put his career on hold. Sustaining the injury last April forced North to miss the British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa, plus the autumn internationals.
He was not included in Wales' 36-player squad for the Six Nations this week, absent along with several other notable injury casualties, including captain Alun Wyn Jones.
Champions Wales start their Six Nations defence against Ireland in Dublin on February 5, a date which has come much too soon for North to be considered. His short-term priority is getting in shape with his club side, the Ospreys.
"Hopefully I'll be back into some sort of team training next week," North told Stats Perform.
Asked whether there was any hope of him being available to Wales during the championship, North said: "There's two big steps: getting back to training full time with the Ospreys, then playing for the Ospreys with a view to potentially, maybe, catching the end of it.
"But at the moment I'm just focusing on playing back for the Ospreys."
Wales have home games against France and Italy on March 11 and 19 to finish the campaign, and North may be pushing for selection by then.
He has been a key component of the Wales team since making his debut as a teenager, and passed 100 caps during the Six Nations last year.
The 29-year-old has been itching to get back into action, but his absence from the pitch has allowed North some valuable family time.
He married Olympic cyclist Becky James in 2019, and they had a second son, Tomi, in October of last year.
North describes his wife as "a superstar" for helping him through a difficult rehabilitation period, and the former Northampton and Scarlets star is relishing his return to action.
"I take great confidence in knowing a load of rugby boys that I know have had single or double ACLs and they're still playing now, with no issues," North said.
"Luckily, I'm in a good generation where the medical care is advancing so quickly, so I'm benefiting from that. For me now, the focus is just to get back.
North, who is a Land Rover ambassador, is evidently relieved to be finally "on the home straight", as he puts it. He compares his current routine to that of a demanding pre-season, with full contact training still to come.
"I'm finding already this is the most frustrating part," he said, "because obviously you're a lot closer than you were six months ago."
He can only encourage his Wales colleagues from a distance as the Six Nations looms, and with the likes of Taulupe Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny, Josh Navidi, Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric also sidelined, it will be a challenging campaign for coach Wayne Pivac. North prefers to look at the positives that might come from this testing time.
"With adversity, you get exciting results," said North, "and the younger boys coming through that we've picked are exciting boys, and I'm excited to see how the boys come together to push on.
"Any Six Nations is tough. Obviously, you want your main team out there the best you can, and injuries are a nightmare for any team."
:: George North is a Land Rover ambassador. Visit landrover.co.uk