British and Irish Lions 2013: George North passes fitness test to provide huge boost ahead of first clash against Australia
The news a welcome boost following this week's defeat
The Lions have received a massive confidence boost following yesterday's loss to the Brumbies with the news that George North will be fit for the opening Test against Australia on Saturday.
North passed a fitness test on his hamstring injury today with everyone in the Lions party lifted by the news.
After suffering a 14-12 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra, just hours after that first defeat of the tour, North was taking his fitness test and convincing the medical team he was ready to spearhead the bid for a first series triumph since 1997.
While North will be named in tomorrow's starting line up for the Test in Brisbane, centre Jamie Roberts will not have recovered from his hamstring injury, opening the way for Jonathan Davies to partner Brian O'Driscoll at centre.
Rob Howley, the Lions backs coach, paid tribute to the endless hours of rehabilitation work undertaken by North to get the powerhouse Welsh wing fit to take on the Wallabies.
Howley said;""George was up bright and early this morning for a 7am fitness test and I have never seen him in better shape and he is available for selection which is a huge boost for us. We have looked after him well and it is a huge morale boost to have someone like George fit for the first test.
"George has been icing his hamstring continually doing the day and then doing his rehab running with the medical staff and his whole focus has been to get himself right. That is completely different to other tours I have been on and the professionalism of these young talent players is outstanding. They are preparing for the biggest game of the rugby year and their diligence and professionalism can only be admired.
"It shows how much they want to wear that red jersey with the badge on and we spoke about the badge getting bigger and while it was dented a little bit last night, I am sure we will see a reaction on Saturday.
"He was involved against Australia here on tour with Wales a year ago and I haven't seen him looking better and that is why we took the decision to get him 100 per cent right and he is looking forward to playing Australia. Jamie Roberts is unlikely to be fit for the weekend along with Tommy Bowe whose hand is progressing and we believe he is going to be available for the second test. It's about making sure the surgery he has had is ready for rugby.
"Manu is improving every day after damaging a nerve in his shoulder and is getting stronger all the time but he is touch and go for the first test. If you have players who could be ready by the second test then it is important to work with them because this is a three test series and we are in a good place."
Howely is confident the Brumbies defeat has not affected confidence and maintained on arrival in Brisbane today that the Lions remain capable of ending a 16 year wait for a test series triumph. He also refused to accept that a leaked Wallaby team would be the one turning up on Saturday."I have seen the Wallaby team that is out there on twitter and all you think is that is hearsay and we will wait until the official announcement tomorrow;"said Howley.
"Can the Brumbies defeat make us stronger? Absolutely and as Warren(Gatland) said last night, it is a reality check, particularly at the break down and a lot of our discussions have been about correcting that area of our play."
Wallabies (unconfirmed): Berrick Barnes; Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Lealiifano, Digby Ioane; James O'Connor, Will Genia, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson, Kane Douglas, James Horwill (captain);, Michael Hooper, Ben Mowen; Wycliff Palu
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