Wales: George North can take centre stage like All Black duo, says Warren Gatland

George North will play at centre when Wales face South Africa. Michael Steele/Getty Images

Wales wing George North could become a centre option for his country during the countdown to next year's Rugby World Cup.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has cited examples to North of former New Zealand stars Ma'a Nonu and Tana Umaga moving into midfield during their Test careers.

And such is 73 times-capped North's game-breaking prowess, it makes sense for Wales to reap full advantage.

"I have spoken to him about potentially covering the midfield, as I know we've used him in the past there," said Gatland, who has named North in a 31-man squad for next month's encounters against South Africa and Argentina.

"I would like to see him get some game-time there with the Ospreys as well because we still think he is potentially a midfield option for us.

"I've spoken to him about following other players like Ma'a Nonu and Tana Umaga, who ended up moving into midfield. He gives us a different option."

North has started three times for Wales in the centre, and he links up with the Ospreys this summer on a national dual contract following a five-year stint at Aviva Premiership club Northampton.

Gatland added: "Come the World Cup, he could end up on the wing, but it gives us another option.

"When he has moved in the past he has done exceptionally well. He originally was a midfielder, but has played most of his rugby on the wing.

"I think it will be great for him to be adept at both positions - being strong on the wing and being able to come in.

"The key to when he plays well is having lots of touches. He causes opposition teams so many problems, not from a try-scoring perspective, but getting over the gain-line.

"We will definitely give him the licence to operate that way, and give him as many touches of the ball as he can. George will benefit from that."

Gatland is relishing the prospect of North, 26, being back in Wales, having agreed terms with the Welsh Rugby Union and Ospreys.

"George has found the last year or so frustrating," Gatland said. "He's had a few injuries and pulled out of the [2017] Lions tour, which was disappointing.

"He is excited about coming back to Wales on an NDC and the fact he's going to be looked after with the number of games he has for his club. He is looking forward to having a good break after this tour.

"He said he can't remember the last time he had a decent off-season, so he is excited about being looked after and hopefully we can get him back into the sort of world-class form we know he is capable of.

"He has been desperate to get back to being fit, sharp and the player he is capable of being."