Saints star North ready to make his mark on Lions tour
George North may not have been prolific for Saints during the season just gone - but there is no doubt he has the ability to make a big splash for the Lions this summer.
North is now with the Lions in New Zealand, with build-up matches currently being played ahead of the first Test, in Auckland on June 24.
And Warren Gatland will hope the Wales wing can reach the kind of heights he scaled in 2013, when North propelled the Lions to victory in Australia.
The Saints star was a key man on that tour, lifting his team - and Wallabies full-back Israel Folau - in a superb series.
North has since won an Amlin Challenge Cup and Aviva Premiership with Saints.
And despite only scoring five tries for his club during the 2016/17 campaign, the 25-year-old headed to New Zealand on a high after helping them emerge victorious in the Champions Cup play-offs.
Now North, who was given a breather during the opening two tour matches but will start against the Crusaders on Saturday, knows much bigger battles await.
And he said: “The fact you are playing so many games in so little time, the fact that the games aren’t the easiest in the world, means you have to be on your mettle for each one.
“To be fair, to go to New Zealand and play them in their own back-yard is always going to be tough, and the rest of these games leading into the Test matches are also going to be difficult.
“For me, it is always about the next step, and it is a massive honour to play for the Lions.
“It is berserk to think I had my first cap just over six years ago, and now I am on a second Lions tour.
“The more you play, the more you get recognised and marked, so it’s understanding my role in the system and how I can apply myself within the game and be the biggest pain I can to the opposition and how I can best impose myself on the game.
“To be involved with the Lions Test team would be huge.”
While North has not always found it easy to score for Saints of late, he has been flying for Wales.
The powerful wing bagged three tries in four appearances during this year’s 2017 Six Nations, meaning he has now grabbed seven tries in his past nine matches in the tournament.
North is now working with his former boss with Wales, Warren Gatland, once again.
And he is enjoying the experience.
“Warren gets everyone on the same page very early,” North said. “Everyone buys into it.
“His preparation and work to prepare people for games is second to none.
“He puts it on the boys to be the best they can be - the way they train and play.
“He pushes the boys above and beyond in training to show, really, how good they can be and show how we want to play.
“He puts us in situations in training that we would be put in during games.”
North is joined in the Lions squad by Saints team-mate Courtney Lawes.
And if the England lock needs any advice on what it is like to play in a Lions Test, he only has to turn to North.
“I think from a player’s point of view, we learnt a lot from 2013, not just from what we achieved as a squad, and we can use that as a springboard to push on again,” North said.
“The whole tour was a great experience, and one that will always stay with me.
“It is a tremendous honour to be selected for the Lions.
“I had never experienced it before 2013, but special is the word to describe it.”