North’s star shining bright ahead of Saints move

TOP TALENT - George North's performances for the Lions are impressing pundits and exciting Saints fans
TOP TALENT - George North's performances for the Lions are impressing pundits and exciting Saints fans
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At the tender age of just 21, George North is emerging as key man in the British & Irish Lions’ bid for glory Down Under.

The winger, who joins Saints from Scarlets this summer, sizzled on Tuesday afternoon, scoring two tries in a stunning first-half showing against Combined Country.

Though the opposition weren’t the strongest - their squad included a carpenter and a teacher - North’s drive, desire and raw power stood out.

And his importance to Warren Gatland’s master plan to wallop the Wallabies when the three-match Test series starts on June 22 was evident.

Having felt his hamstring tighten before the break, North was withdrawn, sparing him from any further damage.

He has become a key component in this Lions team, and did I mention he’s only just been given the key to the proverbial door?

For one so young to emerge as such a dominant presence so early on a tour of this magnitude is remarkable.

But there is simply no escaping North’s gravitational pull as he sucks opponents in and bats them off with gusto.

His breaks from his own half, leaving defences for dead, are starting to become a feature of this trip.

And his ability not only to score but also provide assists, as he did with a brilliant ‘out the back door’ pass to Brian O’Driscoll in Saturday’s success against Queensland Reds, is impressive.

Again, that game saw North receive acclaim from all quarters and one of those trademark bursts from deep in his own territory will have had Saints fans jumping off their seats in excitement.

You can almost hear the ring of the Franklin’s Gardens ticket office phones every time North turns out for the Lions.

The appetite to see him, and the likes of Kahn Fotuali’i and Glenn Dickson lining up alongside established Northampton players such as Ben Foden and George Pisi is huge.

This year’s recruitment policy has a different feel about it, with the influence of incoming backs coach Alex King clear.

King had a big say in which players were sought and signed, with his ideology set to play a part in Saints’ bid for stylish success next season.

The money spent on backs and forwards is now more balanced, with big earners Soane Tonga’uiha, Brian Mujati and Paul Doran-Jones exiting.

They have been replaced by Alex Corbisiero, Salesi Ma’afu and Gareth Denman, who are men with a point to prove at the higest level in club rugby.

Corbisiero, an England regular now with the Lions, and Ma’afu, who has won 14 caps for Australia, have shown their quality on the international stage, but big honours in the bread and butter of domestic action have been far from free-flowing.

They will now look to rectify that at the Gardens and their respective games will undoubtedly improve under the highly-regarded tuition of forwards coach Dorian West.

But it remains in the back division where excitement reigns supreme, with a backline consisting of Foden, North, Pisi and Fotuali’i getting the taste buds tingling.

It remains to be seen whether it’s a recipe for success, but the signs are getting stronger with every passing summer tour match.