Jim Lyon – You’ve signed a world-class player so just be happy about it

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

Go on then, name your 15.

It’s a discussion that has taken place in many a pub, club and household over the last few months.

And so it was a London Welsh supporting friend and I used last Saturday night to select the starting British & Irish Lions XV we felt would be running out in Brisbane come June.

We obviously got it spot on.

It was only courteous for us to send an email to Warren Gatland the next day telling him he could rest easy for the next few months as his worked had been done for him.

Unfortunately – or probably fortunately - our Shiraz-aided ramblings are, of course, of no consequence.

But one thing we were agreed on was neither of our line-ups included a Northampton Saints player.

Several were mentioned. Hartley, Wood, Lawes were all put forward. However, we could not see any of them forcing a way into the side.

But now there will be a Saints player.

Okay, he will play for the Lions before he wears the gold, black and green but George North is – fitness permitting - a nailed-on certainty for the number 11 shirt.

Which brings me, admittedly in a rather roundabout way, to the crux of the matter.

There will be a Saint among them in Australia and, for that, all Gardens devotees should be proud.

That means a very good player is on his way to the club.

It is therefore a bit disingenuous to criticise North’s signing.

Some valid points have been made about other positions being perhaps more pressingly in need of world-class players.

But to suggest North’s deal included free gloves from the club shop in order to keep his idle hands warm is unfair.

When genuinely high-quality stars arrive in Northampton just be grateful – and he is definitely out of the top drawer.

I saw the Welsh winger’s signing likened to that of Carlos Spencer. But it is better than that.

Don’t misunderstand, I loved watching Spencer play.

His little overhead chip against Saracens, for one example, was one of the most amazing moments I have witnessed at any sporting event.

But he was a player who never owned an international place, whose reputation would always be tarnished by his ability to produce the foolhardy as well as the spectacular, was 30 years and would never play for his nation again after he signed on at the Gardens.

North, in contrast, is among the very best in his position in the world at the moment, is only just out of his teens and is only going to get better in the next few years.

He is a great signing – be pleased about it.

For all the questioning of Saints’ style of play, Jim Mallinder and his men are not stupid.

They have not brought him to the club simply to defend. They will adapt and develop and incorporate North into the game in every way they can.

As for signing players in other key positions, well that doesn’t just happen in club rugby.

Unlike playing ‘Fantasy Lions’ you cannot just lounge around in your living room with a bottle of plonk and pick who you want for your team.