Following the 2017 Lions Tour, it is evident that George North needs a change in his career to fulfill his potential.

George North was unfortunately forced to withdraw from the Tour following a hamstring injury.

North’s experience on this tour contrasts significantly with the 2013 series against Australia, as the winger has struggled to find form. Whilst he can still be considered world-class, his sporadic form since 2013 has hindered his development.

Injuries

North’s recent history with injuries has understandably had a detrimental effect on his development. Most notably, North suffered five head injuries between November 2014 and December 2016. His forced absence from the game from March to August 2016 proves the impact these injuries have had.

We can only wonder how this has affected North, both physically and psychologically.

Efficiency

Alongside injuries, there has also been a decline in North’s strike-rate at club level. At Northampton, North currently scores 0.308 tries per game, whereas he averaged 0.341 at the Scarlets. At first glance, this may not seem important but North is now 25 and should be heading into the prime of his career. Taking this into consideration, one would expect this statistic to have improved.

His reduction in try scoring can partly be explained by the decline of the Northampton Saints. They have struggled in the Premiership since their title win in 2014. However, it is the specific tactics of Northampton and the way that North is incorporated into the attacking structure that are at most to blame. The use of North as a battering ram has been a notable tactic, which can be attributed to his performances on the 2013 Lions Tour. Given his 6’5” height and 109kg weight, it is understandable that Jim Mallinder would utilise his natural physicality. This presents significant issues, as the winger is instructed to break the line of defence which is waiting in anticipation for him to do so.

This can be illustrated in this colossal tackle by Joe Marler on North and how the line of defence can rush to nullify his threat.

North has been effective for Northampton when he has been played into space against isolated defenders. This allows him to use his impressive speed and physicality to overpower the opposition.

What kind of change is needed?

This article is not trying to propose that George North no longer has the X-Factor he ‘once’ possessed. Far from it, his skill set and physical stature make him a valuable asset in world rugby. He does not necessarily need to return to Wales, despite the arguments of some commentators. Northampton may indeed implement tactics in the coming season that could prove wonders for North’s game, but this is difficult to predict. If his form and confidence improve, we may again see the George North that excited the world back in Australia.

Photos: www.photosport.nz

Author: Rob Morris

I think that this is one of the more imaginative ways for a student to avoid focusing on their degree. Born in London to Irish parents has left me with a peculiar network of teams which I support. A huge rugby and football fan, with an interest in other sports such as Rugby League, Gaelic and Boxing.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Scoring in 1 out of 3 games isn’t world class to me. Moving into centre would make North get involved in the game otherwise he needs to be hungrier on the wing. The same can be said for Ioane in the last test as he was quiet.

    They are both big guys. No team mate should complain if they ask to take the ball up and give others a breather. That’s the attitude I saw from Beauden Barrett as he did it in Test 2 after getting hammered by Vulipona.

    • I think that when George North is on form, he can be of world class standard and is a frightening prospect for opposition defenders. The problem is just the consistency, but I was trying to say that if this was sorted he would be world class.

      I think the basic problem is North is best either running from depth into a broken field, or running shallow lines when the opposition line is in tact. Northampton have struggled in attacking form recently so it could be down to the system. Wales haven’t been great either so this adds to the problem.

      Also, it’s not so much an issue of whether he wants to take the ball to the line or not, but if your opponents know that you’ve been doing this for at least 5 years they are going to implement a strategy to negate this effect. North always has 2/3 tacklers on him simply because teams know how powerful he is. If opposition teams implement this, it becomes a lot harder to score. I think a move to the centre is an unlikely option given the promise of Harry Mallinder, but I agree it could be worth a go.

      • Perhaps he just needs to be able to offload more. George North is a huge talent with both speed and body strength to spare so other teams will obviously target him and try to shut him out of the game. If he can draw two or three defenders towards him as you say then he needs to be able to offload to the player who now has space. All too often he just runs into the tackles and gets pulled to ground. By varying his game he would improve as a player and probably suffer less injuries as well.

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