GEORGE North reflected on "a difficult couple of weeks" after his two-try performance helped Wales beat NatWest 6 Nations opponents Italy 38-14 in Cardiff.

North's appearance at the Principality Stadium came eight days on from him missing Northampton's Aviva Premiership game against Sale Sharks, after which interim Saints boss Alan Gaffney suggested the 25-year-old had not wanted to play for his club.

North had been released on schedule by Wales as it was a Six Nations fallow week, but he did not feature for Northampton amid reports he had an arrangement with former Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder that he would not play club rugby on rest weekends.

"It has been a difficult couple of weeks, but it's been good to be in camp with a real focus," North said.

"International rugby is a tough old place and you have to keep your head on you, focus on the challenges ahead, and for me it was a case of looking at Italy and making sure it was full steam ahead.

"Having this game as a focus was a really good thing for me."

North's double took him to 32 Wales tries - he is now just one behind Ieuan Evans on Wales' all-time list - and it could have been a hat-trick when he crossed late on but play had already been brought back by referee Jerome Garces for a knock-on.

"To get a start for your country means everything, and for me it's all I work for," added North, who has scored eight tries in eight Tests against Italy.

"Two tries was a bonus, but I was gutted to see the third one disallowed. That would have been the icing on the cake, but a bonus-point victory puts us in a great position for Saturday (against France).

"It has been good to get some rugby under my belt individually, and as a team we've shown glimpses there.

"But there were too many errors, too many penalties and that was too high for us. We know we've got a big challenge coming up and we will have to tighten up."

Wales are now second in the Six Nations table, a position they look set to retain if they beat France.

"Ireland have won the tournament now, but for us we have targeted bonus-point wins in our last two games to give us the best chance of finishing second," North said.

"If we tighten up a few things, we will be in a good place for Saturday.

"If you look at the way they (France) are playing, it's great. They are playing the sort of rugby you usually expect from France, using some big, heavy guys. We need to improve to face them.

"I am not sure what the penalty count was but it was seven or eight in the first half, and with France coming we can't afford that."