Northampton paid a fine of £60,000 to the Premiership for allowing George North to play for Wales outside the official international window last month, and if it made a nonsense of the league’s collective policy on the subject, everyone else appears to believe it was a stand worth taking.
The big wing and sometime centre arrived at the Saints this summer – shortly after confirming his world class on the Lions tour of Australia – and in recent club matches, up to and including Saturday’s hugely enjoyable 43-25 win over Bath at Franklin’s Gardens, the 21-year-old’s English employers have begun to see the full range of his gifts.
“I thought George was brilliant,” said Alex King, another newcomer at Northampton this season as backs coach. “We really needed somebody to take the game by the scruff of the neck [after falling behind, 13-0]. He took two incredible high balls in attack that gave us momentum and field position; he then carried three or four times, and galvanised the team. He’s got amazing natural athletic ability, he’s quick, he’s strong, he works incredibly hard. The good thing now is George is starting to find his form, his confidence is up and he’s settled in as one of the boys.”
King is delighted his second-placed team have rattled up 34 Premiership tries – one behind the leaders Saracens’ 35 and way ahead of the next best, Leicester on 23 – including another six against Bath.
Steve Myler belted five conversions and a penalty from all over the pitch and has the best kicking success rate in the Premiership. By contrast, there were a couple of wobbles in the game for Bath’s England hopeful George Ford. Both fly-halves are in England’s reserve squad.
“On days like this, when they both had a good set of forwards in front of them, I’m pleased with Stephen that he came out on top,” said King, whose Saints now host Harlequins. “Friday against Quins, it’s another top-four team and it will be another cracking game.”