A Superstar is Born

I said on Twitter earlier this week that this Lions tour could be the moment that George North goes from Northern Hemisphere superstar to global superstar.

It is probably safe to say that that little prediction has come true after his sensational solo try for the Lions in the First Test. His power, speed and, dare I say it; grace, as he scorched away from would be Wallaby tacklers was simply sensational.

It will go down as one of the great Lions tries, up there with Brian O’Driscoll and Jason Robinson in 2001, and will surely require an update of my Lions memories blog from last week!

If there was one dampener on it then it was his finger wagging to Will Genia as he charged across the try line, those sorts of gestures have no place in the game and you hope that some of his team mates and coaches have had a quiet word.

I was hypercritical of Delon Armitage for his similar gesture in the Heineken Cup final and some will understandably criticise me for not giving North the same level of critiscism.

In many ways they will be right, however there is a later gesture that perhaps explains why Armitage was subjected to more criticism. As soon as he had an opportunity to do so, North apologised. Armitage by contrast chose to get involved in arguments on Twitter and, deliberately or otherwise, he came across as a man who thought there was nothing wrong with his actions. North is 21, Armitage is 29. Read into it what you will.

The photo of the moment has done the rounds on social media, however for me the part that has been missed, and that perhaps sums up what the Lions means to people both inside and outside of the camp, is the Lions Head Doctor, Dr James Robson, charging along the touchline. He is utterly jubilant, letting out a primal roar almost; his passion and commitment to Lions makes him a truly great Lion.

Dr James Robson (behind Genia) showing his passion for the Lions as North lets out his ill-judged finger wag before scoring one of the great Lions tries

He has been a busy man too, it was revealed after the game that only extensive treatment of George North’s hamstring had got him ready for the game and that even then he had only been expected to last 50-60 minutes.

He will be busy again this week with Alex Corbisiero, Jamie Roberts and Tommy Bowe all needed to be assessed ahead on the weekend. Manu Tuilagi looks as though he is back to fitness though, he starts tomorrow.

One man that the good doctor will not be able to get back to fitness though is Paul O’Connell. O’Connell has broken his arm and has been ruled out for the rest of the tour.

O’Connell’s injury is a devastating blow, his leadership has been colossal and his understanding of the Lions ethos has been a key part of the trip. He has also been a key figure for Sam Warburton to lean on.

The thing about O’Connell is that he is a man of presence, a near indescribable quality but one that as soon as people meet him they understand instantly, Andy Farrell is much the same. That presence says to the Australians that he will do whatever it takes to win this series – playing on without even noticing that he has a broken arm, for instance.

The man who will replace him though is Geoff Parling, a player who really seems to have thrived in the Lions environment. Before the tour I might have described him as a very solid player and a lineout expert. I would now describe him as a true leader and a warrior.

It was Parling who was galvanising the troops after that loss against the Brumbies, Parling who was gesticulating to players to be calm and make sure that the ball safely went dead when Kurtley Beale missed that kick at the death. He deserves his Test start.

That Beale kick, it was like Pretoria in 2009 all over again, only this time the Lions fell on the right side of lady luck. That is no criticism of the Lions, or indeed of Beale, for just like on that heartbreaking match in Pretoria both sides could legitimately claim to deserve victory and in the end luck is all that is left to separate them, as it is so often in sport. Though one suspects that Beale may pay closer attention to his choice of stud in future.

Beale will almost certainly start next week though as despite his kick he was magical when he came on, and with injuries mounting up for the Wallabies his presence could be key. It is a measure of the Wallaby strength in depth that even with their injuries they could still select a back line that reads; Genia, Beale, Morahan, Leali’ifano, Tapuai, O’Conner, Folau – not a bad bunch at all.

The Lions will have to improve to beat them again next week, they are unlikely to get so lucky with injuries and missed kicks again. Craig Joubert may be a little more accommodating at the breakdown that Chris Pollock but the Lions know that they must improve across the board.

With the magical North at the ready though they will feel that anything is possible.

From anywhere.

By Angus Savage

*Due to a technical fault our Twitter feeds have temporarily been taken off the website, however if you wish to get in touch with us and hear our latest musings then you can still follow us on twitter – @FifteenRugbyXV and @AngusSavageXV for my own more offbeat musings.

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