Rugby

George North absent for Wales’ Six Nations opener with Scotland

The experienced wing suffered an injury playing for his club.

George North has been ruled out
George North has been ruled out George North has been ruled out (Joe Giddens/PA)

Wales centre George North has been ruled out of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Scotland because of a shoulder injury.

North, who has won 118 caps and is comfortably the most experienced player in Wales’ Six Nations squad, was hurt during Ospreys’ recent European Challenge Cup victory over South Africa side the Lions.

Owen Watkin and Nick Tompkins will forge Wales’ midfield partnership, with Cardiff full-back Cameron Winnett handed a Test debut after just 15 games of professional rugby.

The 21-year-old features in a position vacated by Liam Williams’ move to Japan, while full-back option Louis Rees-Zammit recently quit rugby union to pursue a possible American football career.

Elsewhere, Winnett’s Cardiff colleague James Botham – grandson of England cricket great Sir Ian Botham – is recalled for a first Wales appearance since July 2021, packing down alongside back-row colleagues Tommy Reffell and Aaron Wainwright.

Dragons prop Leon Brown also starts, with uncapped Cardiff flanker Alex Mann among the replacements, where former Bristol back Ioan Lloyd provides fly-half cover for Sam Costelow.

Racing 92 lock Will Rowlands, whose partner recently gave birth, is not included in the match-day 23, with captain Dafydd Jenkins and Adam Beard forging Wales’ second-row combination.

At 21, Exeter forward Jenkins is Wales’ youngest skipper since a 20-year-old Gareth Edwards led Wales against Scotland in 1968.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland said: “George got quite a big stinger in terms of his shoulder and didn’t take part in full training last week, so Owen Watkin comes into the midfield.

“Will hasn’t come into the squad yet. His wife had a baby a couple of weeks ago in France.

“So the message to him has been ‘you stay home and be with your family’. We always talk about how important that is, and he will turn up when he is ready.”

Wales have beaten Scotland 11 times on the bounce in Cardiff, winning nine Six Nations games, a World Cup warm-up fixture and an autumn Test since the Scots triumphed in April 2002.

But Wales are now without the likes of Rees-Zammit, Williams and long-term injured trio Jac Morgan, Taulupe Faletau and Dewi Lake, while Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny retired from international rugby after the World Cup in France.

Gatland added: “Cameron Winnett is just a lovely footballer, and I think he is going to develop into a quality international player in the future.

“He is young and there will be no pressure on him. It is also great that Alex Mann is on the bench, and will hopefully get his debut as well.

“Scotland haven’t won here in a long, long time, and it is an opportunity for us to continue with that record.

“The (stadium) roof is going to be open.

“Scotland want the roof open, which I think is a little bit disappointing from an atmosphere point of view because when that roof is shut it does tend to create a lot more atmosphere and noise in the stadium. But that is the decision that they made.”

Six Nations regulations state that both teams have to agree in order for the roof to be closed.

Wales team versus Scotland: C Winnett (Cardiff); J Adams (Cardiff), O Watkin (Ospreys), N Tompkins (Saracens), R Dyer (Dragons); S Costelow (Scarlets), G Davies (Scarlets); C Domachowski (Cardiff), R Elias (Scarlets), L Brown (Dragons), D Jenkins (Exeter, capt), A Beard (Ospreys), J Botham (Cardiff), T Reffell (Leicester), A Wainwright (Dragons).

Replacements: E Dee (Dragons), K Mathias (Scarlets), K Assiratti (Cardiff), Teddy Williams (Cardiff), A Mann (Cardiff), Tomos Williams (Cardiff), I Lloyd (Scarlets), M Grady (Cardiff).