North and his fellow Wales teammates will be privately stoked Folau is not donning a gold jersey in Tokyo this weekend but were been quick to talk up the Australians who are coming off a 39-21 win over Fiji in Sapporo.
“If you look at the back line, with or without Izzy, it’s a very potent attacking side,” North said. “They have got threats by way of physicality, speed and aerial threats as well. The form the Wallabies are bringing in is impressive. We know we have to go up a gear to face them.
“Expect the unexpected because they have so many good players and trick plays. We have to be on. They’re a tough beast to beat. They’ve got skills from [player number] one to 15.”
Following news this week of Folau’s intention to return to rugby league and represent Tonga, a number of his former Wallabies teammates wished him the best this week from Japan, with No.10 Christian Lealiifano saying it would be nice to see his talent used somewhere.
“We’re completely focused here [on the World Cup] but it’ll be nice to see him play some footy,” Lealiifano said. “He’s an exceptional talent and someone I feel would be wasted to not play sport again. It’d be nice to see him run around and I’ll be happy for him if he gets to do that.”
Unless Wallabies selectors spring a surprise and promote Dane Haylett-Petty to fullback for the Wales clash, it is expected Kurtley Beale will retain his No.15 jersey despite an off showing in Sapporo.
Wales winger Josh Adams grew up watching Beale and said while it was surreal coming up against a player who has always lifted against Wales in eight previous encounters, he backed himself to shine in the biggest moment of his 15-Test career.
“Now to play against them at a World Cup and on the big stage will be huge,” said Adams, who scored a 19th-minute try against Georgia. “I’m here now and have to focus on myself and believe I’m good enough.”
Wales were not happy they conceded two tries in the second half against Georgia. They desperately wanted to hold the Eastern European side to nil but a few lapses in concentration meant they were unable to maintain a clean sheet. The scoreline was 14-14 in the final 40 minutes.
Nonetheless the side were pleased they were able to shake off the bombshell news assistant coach Rob Howley had been sent home from the World Cup for allegedly betting on rugby matches and register a bonus-point win.
“It was a rocky start to the week,” North said. “I don’t think a huge amount will change. The boys have galvanised together and that showed in the first half. The amount of prep and homework will stay the same. The wheels keep turning. We’ve got Gats [coach Warren Gatland] at the helm and away we’ll go.”
Adams said: “We’re pretty disappointed we conceded those two tries to be honest with you. I think we were looking to keep them scoreless but Australia is something to look forward to.”
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald