George North fit for first Test
Tom Hamilton in Brisbane
June 19, 2013
George North has been one of the Lions' top players so far © Getty Images
The British & Irish Lions have received a huge boost ahead of the first Test with the news winger George North is fit to face the Wallabies on Saturday. But while North is fit, Jamie Roberts and Tommy Bowe are set to miss out on selection for the first Test.
North picked up a hamstring injury last week against the Combined Country side and has not played for the Lions since. With the Lions sweating on North's fitness, they drafted in Christian Wade and Shane Williams, who both played in their loss to the Brumbies on Tuesday.
Williams has now left the camp, as previously planned, and Howley confirmed North is in the mix for a place in the team to face Australia on Saturday. Howley said: "George came through a fitness test this morning and I've never seen him in better shape. He'll be available and that's a big boost for us.
"We've looked after him over the last week to 10 days and it's a huge boost to have someone like him available. Over the last 12 months I haven't seen him in better physical shape and that's why we took the decision to get him 100% physically well. I'm sure he's looking forward to playing at the weekend - if selected."
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Roberts picked up a hamstring injury against the Waratahs on Saturday while Bowe sustained a broken bone in his hand while playing against the Reds. But Manu Tuilagi could yet feature after he picked up a stinger just under a fortnight ago.
"Jamie is progressing. He ran today and is unlikely to be fit for the weekend, as is Tommy Bowe," Howley said. "Tommy is more likely to be available for the second Test. Manu is improving every day and the strength is coming back into his shoulder and he will be touch and go."
The Lions will name their team for the first Test on Thursday and the side will look to bounce back from their woeful performance against the Brumbies on Tuesday. And Howley has challenged the men in red to deliver come Saturday.
"We had a meeting about the game and the nature of a Lions tour is that you must move on. We're bitterly disappointed and will take the hit," he said. "On a Lions tour you talk about the importance of momentum and in the last four or five matches we've had momentum. Now it's about how we react to that game.
"It's important that this team and squad come together and I'm sure that everyone will be behind the 23 selected for Saturday. Absolutely something like this can make you stronger. It gave us a reality check, in particular at the breakdown. We move on and that's the nature of a Lions tour."
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.