Saints star North confident the tries will come

George North is desperate to get back on the scoresheet for Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
George North is desperate to get back on the scoresheet for Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

“Don’t ask!” is George North’s jovial response when asked how he feels about the season so far.

If he has the weight of the tries, or the lack of them on his broad shoulders, then the witty Welshman certainly does a good job of hiding it.

He is honest about how disappointing it is not to have scored for Saints this season, but he certainly won’t let it get on top of him.

Instead, North deals with his interview in a light-hearted way, which is the only thing you can do when you’re sporting a Christmas jumper decorated with flashing lights.

“It’s been fun hasn’t it really,” says the 23-year-old as he continues to assess the embryonic stages of the current campaign.

“There are a number of answers I can reel off to you now (for the lack of tries), but the weather hasn’t been the best and three games on the bounce we were playing in pretty much hurricanes.

“You can’t do much in that.

“It’s frustrating because at the end of the day, I’m there to get ball in hand and get as many touches as I can.

“It’s frustrating and something I’ve sat down with Kinga (attack coach Alex King) and big Jim (Mallinder) to talk about, to get ways I can help myself.

“It’s a cliche but I’m still learning and I’m finding ways I can get myself in the game and be the most creative and most annoying for the opposition.

“It’s something that is frustrating because I set myself such high standards.

“I want to be that guy you can go to and I want to be that person.

“(I don’t know) whether I’m struggling to get back from Wales mode to Northampton mode, but if you look at the start of the season, we didn’t do so well and now the boys are back in and playing regularly together, so the performances will start to come and hopefully the tries will come as well.”

North’s lack of tries - he has not scored in six appearances for Saints this season - certainly isn’t due to a lack of effort.

As director of rugby Mallinder explained: “A lot of it is getting him in the game.

“George is running big distances so he’s getting to good positions and you see that in his GPS results, which are outstanding.

“He’s running fast so we’ve got all that - we just need to get him some tries.

“We look at our team a lot and what we’re doing.

“Of course there’s always individual bits where you want to get your wingers more involved and coming infield at the right times, but often you call these players into the middle and the ball goes out to the touchline and you say ‘where’s George North? He should be out there finishing’.

“It’s not as easy as that.

“We’re working and George is working hard at that part of his game.

“It’s not as though he’s playing badly, but we would like to see him on the scoresheet.

“He’d be the first to admit that he’s not got back to playing as well as he possibly can, but he’s still playing well.

“He’s still doing what we want him to do, but there’s always room for improvement.”

And North certainly doesn’t shy away from that.

“I set my self high standards,” he says.

“One trait that I’ve had since minute one is that to be my best I know I need to do X, Y and Z, and if I can’t do that I get really annoyed at myself, because that’s my job at the end of the day.

“I’m there to do one thing and when I can’t do that, it frustrates me.

“Over the last two games I’ve been working too hard and I haven’t really put myself in the right positions.

“I’m trying to overcompensate, it’s no lack of trying, no lack of running - my numbers are through the roof - it’s one of the things that I’m trying to better myself every time.

“It’s been the first sort of blip I’ve had and I’ve got to learn to deal with it and adapt.

“Every player goes through it and I’ve been quite fortunate.

“It’s not like I’m playing badly, I’m still getting my carries, I’m just not doing as much as I’d hope to.”

There can be no doubt that conditions have played a part.

Because prior to last Saturday’s 33-3 defeat at Racing 92, Saints had won their previous four matches, and each of those had been dominated by the forwards in inclement weather.

“You never go out to play bad, you never go out not to do your job,” North said.

“Fair play to the forwards - the front five have been stepping up each week.

“In the conditions we’ve played in and against the teams we’ve played, that’s what’s been required.

“Sometimes you’ve got to take your medicine and realise that you’re just a dummy runner sometimes and other times you’ll be used more.

“It’s frustrating but I’m learning and I’m sure the tries will start coming soon.”

Saints will certainly hope that is the case, especially with a crucial return clash with Racing 92 beckoning at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.

And how North would love to get his first try of the season against the French team this week.

Saints are desperate to recover quickly, just as they did from defeats to Ulster and Leinster in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

In the win at Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, North started at centre and scored a try in an 18-9 success.

So could he try a move into midfield to end what is seen as a try drought, mainly because everyone is so shocked that he has yet to score.

“No,” was the clear response from the Kings Lynn-born star. “Because when it’s good, it’s good, as you saw last season.

“People are in and out and there are new people in that role and it’s just making sure everyone’s on the same page.

“People have been away but it’s not like I don’t know what’s going on, it’s drummed into me.

“But it’s like anything, when you’ve got all the angles, slow motion, ref cam, it’s easy to make the decision and you’d score every try and be an absolute hero.

“But in the heat of the battle when you’re making decisions and you can’t even breath, that’s what you’re judged on at the end of the day, but that’s not going very well right now.”

Again, there is that trademark North honesty.

He is happy to take on the responsbility, and you can bet he will be trying to lead the charge once again at the Gardens on Friday.