Lions' George North cleared ahead of first test
The British and Irish Lions have received a much-needed boost after their momentum-halting loss to the Brumbies with giant winger George North cleared for Saturday night's first Test.
Lions assistant coach Rob Howley on Wednesday afternoon declared North fully fit and ready to confront the Wallabies after overcoming a worrying hamstring strain.
The 110kg star winger passed a fitness test on Wednesday morning, making up for the "bitter disappointment" of their 14-12 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra the night before.
"I've never seen him in better shape and he's available for selection which is a huge filip for us," backs coach Howley said.
"It's a huge morale boost to have someone like George North available for us."
North, rated among the top finishers in world rugby, is set to increase the pressure on code-hopping Wallabies Test debutant Israel Folau in a difficult match-up.
But the Lions' delight in North's recovery is tempered by the fact that Welsh compatriot and fellow key back Jamie Roberts is in grave doubt for the first Test at Suncorp Stadium.
As expected, Roberts, who also suffered a hamstring injury against NSW last weekend, is set to watch the series-opener with Irish winger Tommy Bowe (broken hand) but both are in contention for the second Test in Melbourne on Saturday week.
Another three-quarter, Englishman Manu Tuilagi is rated "touch and go" by Howley as his shoulder stinger problem steadily improves.
It means a midfield pairing of Welshman Jonathan Davies at No.12 and Irish great Brian O'Driscoll at outside centre is a virtual certainty.