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North fit to face Springboks

Wales' hopes of beating South Africa in their own backyard for the first time have received a boost after George North was declared fit for the first Test in Durban.

The 22-year-old Northampton wing had been a doubt after being struck down by a virus which left him unable to train for most of the week.

But the British and Irish Lions star took part in final preparations at Kings Park on Friday, and will face the Springboks.

Assistant coach Rob Howley said: "George trained this morning, he came through it very well.

"I am delighted to say he is raring to go even though obviously it has been a difficult and different week for him.

"But our medical team have been taking care of him, he has been hydrated, he has had some fuel onboard.

"Having not trained for a couple of days he is feeling a little rough, but he has got time to go and he is raring to go.

"South Africa will remember his debut against them in 2010 when he scored two tries. He is a world-class player, and you need your world-class players against a side of the calibre of the Springboks."

But Howley admits North is unlikely to be able to last a full 80 minutes, meaning Wales will need to shuffle their back-three resources at some stage.

"We will take the decision from the player and I am sure George will communicate with us in terms of how he is feeling after 50-60 minutes.

"The one thing in international rugby is you have to be flat out, that is part of the intensity and the pressure and it will be even greater on Saturday."

Howley captained the only Welsh side to have beaten the Springboks, leading his side to a 29-19 win in the first game at the Millennium Stadium in 1999.

But the former scrum-half reckons coaching a Welsh side to beat South Africa would top that achievement.

"It would mean everything to me, much more than as a player," he said.

"As a player there is a selfishness you have about professional rugby. It is almost a case of me, myself and I.

"When you become a coach it is about the team and the players and giving them the best opportunity to perform.

"We feel we have trained very well this week.

"We started the tour with a win against the Eastern Province Kings on Tuesday. We know it is a step up on Saturday but we are really looking forward to a great challenge, which is what you always get when you face South Africa."


From Belfast Telegraph