Star North desperate to help Saints continue proud tradition
'This year, we've shown glimpses of some rugby that can compete with the best in Europe, but we've also shown rugby that wouldn't compete with the best in the pub league.'
That is George North’s take on a season which has seen Saints finish outside of the top four for the first time since 2008/09.
And the Wales star is now just desperate to help his side summon up the energy for one last game as they bid to ensure they will be playing Champions Cup rugby in the next campaign.
“It’s huge,” said North ahead of today’s Aviva Premiership final-day game at Gloucester. “We’ve got a good tradition (of playing in Europe’s top level tournament) here.
“It’s just that consistency that we’ve lacked this season and it shows because we’re vying for top six, not top four.
“We’ll regroup now over pre-season and focus back for next season to make sure we hit next season at full shred.”
One plus for fifth-placed Saints this weekend is that they know a win will guarantee that top-six spot they crave.
But they know any slip-up will open the door for Harlequins, who are a point back, and Sale Sharks, who are a further point behind.
“With it being in our own hands, it’s better than watching the scores come in,” North said.
“We need to stay top six to make sure we haven’t got to go on a nice round trip to Russia or something.
“It’s in our hands, we’ve trained well all week and we’re really focused.”
As North points out, a trip to Russia or Romania could await in the Challenge Cup if Saints fail to book their Champions Cup ticket at Kingsholm.
They have won just 11 of their 21 league games this season and North knows it has been a brutal campaign, with no LV= Cup to help lower intensity levels.
“With it being such a long year, there’s no LV to rotate the senior players,” said the 24-year-old, who has scored three tries in 15 appearances for his club this season.
“You’ve got a lot of boys who are physically tired and need a break.
“It’s difficult when you’re just trying to win games to stay alive and stay in the top four.
“It’s been interesting, but it’s a season that I’m looking forward to having a few weeks off after.”
North was a star man for Wales during the Six Nations, scoring four tries in five appearances.
But, on the whole, he feels his personal performances been little more than average.
“It’s one of those seasons where it’s been up and down,” North said.
“What do you try to peak for? The whole season’s pretty big.
“You try to stay as focused and as determined for each game as you can when the season is almost over a year now. Without a real break, it’s difficult.
“For me it’s been an okay season.
“I haven’t played as well as I can. I’ve played some good rugby, but I’ve sort of just stayed okay. It’s been an alright season.”