Just hours after being deflated by their dismal 14-12 defeat to the Brumbies in their first loss Down Under, the tourists were told that Saints’ summer signing North has made a complete recovery from his hamstring injury.
The destructive 21-year-old had been in magnificent form prior to limping off against the Combined Country XV eight days ago, with his ability to break and evade tackles identifying him as one of the Lions’ key threats.
He was today named in the Lions team for Saturday’s first Test and will be unleashed upon the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium.
And assistant coach Howley is glad to have him back.
“It’s great to have someone like George available because of his physicality, power and speed,” said Howley.
“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.
“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 will be joined in the Lions team by another future Saints player, Alex Corbisiero.
British and Irish Lions team to face Australia at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, on Saturday June 22: L Halfpenny (Wales); A Cuthbert (Wales), B O’Driscoll (Ireland), J Davies (Wales), G North (Wales); J Sexton (Ireland), M Phillips (Wales); A Corbisiero (England), T Youngs (England), A Jones (Wales), A-W Jones (Wales), P O’Connell (Ireland), T Croft (England), S Warburton (Wales, capt), J Heaslip (Ireland).
Replacements: R Hibbard (Wales), M Vunipola (England), D Cole (England), G Parling (England), D Lydiate (Wales), B Youngs (England), O Farrell (England), S Maitland (Scotland).