British and Irish Lions: George North cleared to face Australia
Last Updated: 20/06/13 8:02am
George North: Fit for Brisbane opener
British and Irish Lions wing George North has been passed fit to play in the first Test with Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.
The news is a massive boost for the Lions ahead of the opening Test in the eagerly-anticipated three-Test series.
North suffered a hamstring injury last week against a Combined Country XV and had appeared to be a major doubt for Brisbane.
But Lions assistant coach Rob Howley confirmed that the Wales star has passed a fitness test and will be available for selection.
North is expected to be named on the wing for this weekend's showdown, however Manu Tuilagi is 'touch and go' after suffering a shoulder injury while Tommy Bowe (hand) and Jamie Roberts (hamstring) are to miss out.
Howley said: "George was up bright and early at 7am and came for a fitness test and I have never seen him in better shape, so he is available for selection at the weekend.
"It is a huge fillip for us. We have looked after him over the last week to eight days and I think it is a huge morale boost to have someone like George North fit for us.
"He was involved in the Australia game last year on the tour and over the last 12 months I haven't seen him in better physical shape.
"That's why we took the decision to get him 100 per cent physically right and I am sure he is looking forward - if selected - to playing Australia."
Head coach Warren Gatland will confirm his line-up in the early hours of Thursday morning but Wales centre Jamie Roberts and Ireland wing Tommy Bowe are almost certainly out with respective hamstring and hand problems.
England's Manu Tuilagi could yet feature following a positive update on his shoulder injury and Howley added: "Jamie is progressing. He ran today and is unlikely to be fit for the weekend, as is Tommy Bowe.
"Tommy is more likely to be available for the second Test. Manu is improving every day and the strength is coming back into his shoulder and he will be touch and go."