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North braced for crunch clash on familiar territory

George North’s two-and-a-half year wait to return to Parc y Scarlets will come to an end on Saturday but the Northampton Saints winger admits there is no time for nostalgia.

North joined Northampton from the Scarlets in the summer of 2013, after a season that saw him score nine tries in 14 league games and shine for the British & Irish Lions in Australia.

He lined up against his former employers on the opening weekend of this season’s European Rugby Champions Cup, when the Saints won 15-11 at Franklin’s Gardens.

Now it is the Aviva Premiership Rugby side’s turn to cross the River Severn and for North, that means treading familiar ground.

And the stakes are high for Jim Mallinder’s side, who – after edging past Glasgow Warriors last time out – will likely need victory to reach the quarter-final stage.

“I’m looking forward to going to Parc y Scarlets,” said North.

“I’ve not thought about going back – I’ve been busy since leaving – but I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got a lot of fond memories there, a lot of people I know and some friends.

“It’s a strong battle now for us in the European competition. It didn’t go as well as we were hoping against Glasgow, but we got the win that we needed and it keeps our momentum to put us in a better position to qualify for the next round.

“The way we have been playing this season, it hasn’t been as clinical and as accurate as we are hoping but to get an opportunity now to qualify is key.”

Northampton cannot top Pool 3 – Racing 92 have already earned that spot – but they can qualify as one of the three best runners-up.

And they face a Scarlets side that has struggled in Europe this season, losing each of their five games and picking up just a pair of losing bonus points.

“As far as we know we have to go there and win – and win well – to give us the best chance of qualifying for the next round,” added North.

“We have just got to go down there and play. When we play well, get on the front foot and play the way we know we can play, the tries will come. You have got to just take that pressure away and make sure we are focused on each part of the game.

“We are not playing the brand of rugby that we are hoping to play this season but we are getting there slowly. If you look at the personnel we have got, it’s going to take time and I’m sure, like buses, when the tries come, they’ll come thick and fast.”

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