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Howley: Best to come from North

Rob Howley has declared that the British and Irish Lions have yet to see the best of George North after the Wales wing was passed fit for Saturday's first Test against Australia.

Just hours after being deflated by their 14-12 defeat to the Brumbies in their first loss Down Under, the tourists were told that North has made a complete recovery from his hamstring injury. The Lions team for Saturday's first Test will be announced on Thursday.

The 21-year-old had been in magnificent form prior to limping off against the Combined Country XV and Lions assistant coach Howley said: "It's great to have someone like George available because of his physicality, power and speed. I believe we've only seen glimpses of him, he's a phenomenal athlete and hopefully he'll have that opportunity to show it over the next few weeks."

Howley added: "He's probably one of the best athletes I've been involved with as a coach. He can change direction very quickly, has a great step, power and speed.

"You can bring him in the 10 or 13 channel, or keep him out wide for the passing game. His work rate off the wing is phenomenal.

"We want our wings to be involved because you want your best players on the ball as often as possible. He works tirelessly hard at his game and it's good for the Lions to have someone like him available."

North's presence has taken on greater importance with centre Jamie Roberts and wing Tommy Bowe almost certain to miss the series opener because of their respective hamstring and hand problems.

The shock and awe game plan of head coach Warren Gatland is heavily reliant on the power running of North, Roberts and Bowe, with Jonathan Sexton and Brian O'Driscoll providing the subtlety.

Losing all three wrecking balls would have been a significant setback that Howley admitted could possibly have forced the Lions to rethink their game plan.

Further firepower could be provided by Manu Tuilagi after Howley revealed he has an outside chance of facing the Wallabies this weekend, potentially forcing Gatland to choose between him and Jonathan Davies to partner O'Driscoll in the centres.


From Belfast Telegraph