GEORGE North says the social media abuse meted out to Wales players in the wake of their humiliating defeats to Samoa and Argentina has brought them closer together.
Wales head coach Warren Gatland highlighted earlier this week some of his charges have been targets of irate fans on Twitter.
Giant 6ft 4in and 17st 3lb wing North, who has had little chance to shine this autumn behind a poor Wales pack, is one.
The 20-year-old is adamant the online flak has had a galvanising affect upon the team ahead of their showdown with the All Blacks on Saturday.
He also believes the defeats to Argentina and Samoa are just hiccups, pointing out how Wales, over the last year, reached a World Cup semi-final, won a Grand Slam and pushed the Wallabies all the way on their tour of Australia.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for us, not just as individuals but as a squad as well,” the Scarlets man said.
“This is our first proper blip in two seasons – we had a good World Cup, we won a Grand Slam and we went close on our summer tour.
“So it’s been hard and there’s nobody more disappointed than the boys themselves.
“It’s been devastating to lose the two games as we have, but you just have to come together as a squad.
“We’ve locked down everything and said that we’re going to stay strong as a unit.
“It’s about staying tight and coming up with a big performance at the weekend.”
On the Twitter tirades, North said: “There have been a few smart comments flying around.
“I thought one of them was disrespectful.
“On Remembrance Sunday, I tweeted ‘lest we forget’, only to get a few people tweeting back to say ‘lest we forget the performance against Argentina as well’.
“I thought that was a bit harsh. You get the odd comment about your own game, too. And when you look at the pictures of the people criticising you, they are usually the size of a weed, so that’s quite funny.
“But it’s the dark side of Twitter. There are positives to it – you just have to go with the flow.
“In any sportsman’s career you are going to get the highs and the lows.”
North, who wins his 27th cap on the weekend, said criticism from the fans isn’t working as an incentive, simply because they don’t need one when facing the best side in the world.
“I don’t take it in now. You read them, but there’s enough stuff to get you motivated at the weekend other than Twitter and people tweeting at you.
“We are playing the All Blacks, the world champions, at home.
“If that doesn’t get you going I don’t know what will.”
He added: “All the boys are excited, because we don’t get to play the All Blacks that much.
“We want to keep our standards up, so we have to take it to them.
“If we do that I’m sure it will be a good Test match.
“It’s about manning up. We’ve made our own beds with the losses over the past fortnight, so we have to step up.
“There’s a good vibe in the camp now.”