George North: All Blacks are setting the standard
GEORGE North says New Zealand set the standard Wales must aspire to as they look to try and record a first win over the All Blacks since 1953.
Wales, hurting from a 3-0 series defeat to Australia in the summer that saw the sides separated by just 11 points across the three Tests, will face Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and the Wallabies during a bruising autumn campaign.
North knows there are no easy games among that quartet of fixtures, particularly with crucial IRB world ranking points up for grabs ahead of December's 2015 World Cup draw.
But the 20-year-old can be forgiven for casting a glance ahead to November 24 and the Millennium Stadium meeting with the world champions.
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New Zealand narrowly failed to equal the record of 17 consecutive Test wins by a tier one nation when they drew 18-18 with Australia in Saturday's final Bledisloe Cup contest of the season in Brisbane.
But the signs of the All Blacks' edge were clear to see in captain Richie McCaw's decision to launch one last desperate attack from deep with time up; a bid for victory only denied by Dan Carter's drop goal miss when any other team would have happily punted the ball into the stands and accepted their lot.
Wales's record against the All Blacks is a miserable one, having lost the past 24 meetings between the two nations.
The clash of the Rugby Championship winners and the Six Nations champions promises to be one of the highlights of the autumn, and North knows the size of the challenge ahead.
He said: "I saw the highlights of their game against Australia.
"It looked like a great game. It was 18-all and New Zealand were going for a record number of wins and that kind of sets the standard.
"If those two can battle for 80 minutes and it comes down to a drop-goal, I think that's the standard we have got to try and compete at if we want to be top three in the world."
But the Scarlets three-quarter was quick to stress that Wales won't be going into the contest shorn of hope.
"Every team has got its negative points where you can beat them," he said. "When it comes to the game you have just got to play what you see.
"If they look at us, they can see ways they can beat us but I'm sure we will sit down, analyse their game and work out different ways of having a crack at them.
"I played the All Blacks in my first home series. It was my third cap. I think I'm an older, wiser player. My game has come on a lot since then. You want to get on the pitch to get experience against the world's best team.
"Leading into this game it will be much the same, I'm still learning here and there but, hopefully, the stuff I have picked up over the past few years I can put into practice, if selected.
"I don't think New Zealand can ever go backwards. With the strength in depth they have got, they are always going to be a great standard. Every team in the world has good and bad games but it seems New Zealand, and the likes of South Africa and Australia, know how to win, whether it be dirty, good or grind it out. That's the constant with New Zealand and we have to be on our wits the whole way through against them."