Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

North concern for first Test

George North is a doubt for the first Test in Brisbane

Wales wing George North is currently rated as "less than 50-50" to be fit for next Saturday's first Test match against Australia in Brisbane.

It would be a blow for the British and Irish Lions were North to be ruled out of facing the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium. With centre Jamie Roberts suffering a suspected hamstring injury during Saturday's 47-17 demolition of the New South Wales Waratahs, Lions head coach Warren Gatland could be forced into some back division rethinking.

Jonathan Davies' brilliant performance against the Waratahs suggests he is ready to team up with Brian O'Driscoll as the Lions' first Test midfield combination, if required, with Simon Zebo a probable alternative to North. "His hamstring is still tight, he is still being treated," Gatland said in assessing North's current position.

"We have to make the call on Wednesday. He has not trained. To be honest, he is less than 50-50. Fingers crossed with Jamie. He has never pulled a hamstring before - he is not 100 per cent sure whether that is the injury.

"The forwards seem to be holding themselves together, and unfortunately the backs are the ones who are taking all the knocks. It is something I haven't really experienced in the past.

"When you look at probably the most attritional position out of all them, the loose forwards, and they are all up fit and running and ready to go. It is just one of those things that happen."

Tour newcomers Christian Wade, Brad Barritt, Billy Twelvetrees and 36-year-old Shane Williams will all start against the Brumbies in Canberra on Tuesday, when the Lions' unbeaten tour record could come under serious threat.

Gatland, though, has maintained his positive outlook on injuries, adding: "I don't think it will change the way we are going to play. The fact you pick up injuries, that's part of the game and it is a great opportunity for other players to come in and put their hand up."

Gatland, meanwhile, delivered an upbeat injury assessment on Ireland wing Tommy Bowe, who broke his hand playing against Queensland Reds eight days ago and underwent surgery.

"He is out of the cast. It is healing well," Gatland said. "At an outside chance he could be available for (next) Saturday, but what they (medics) are saying is it is more likely he will be back training and available for the second Test."

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