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North excited for All Blacks challenge with Lions

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

With the British and Irish Lions touching down in New Zealand yesterday to a traditional Maori welcome ready for the first Test against the All Blacks on 24th June, Saints winger George North said that the potential within the squad proves to be an exciting prospect.

"I think the squad Gats [Lions head coach Warren Gatland] has picked has got a mixture of that wide rugby with great skill-sets and speed, and there is also power and some serious force up front," North told Sky Sports.

"From a back's point of view, that is all you can ask for - front-foot ball, and quick, as and when it comes, to go wide, wide.

"The potential is pretty exciting."

North, and fellow Saint Courtney Lawes, have only just joined up with the wider squad though, missing two early Lions training sessions due to Saints' progression to the final stage of the European Champions Cup play-off games, eventually beating State Francais to secure top-tier European rugby for next season.

"It was strange," North added.

"You want to be present in all the camps to get yourself in the best position to learn your role as early as you can and understand the way that Gats wants to play.

"In 2013, I was there the whole time, and to have only been there for 'messy Monday' [Lions player administration day on May 8] and the day we fly, is completely different.

"A lot of hard work goes into it - your conditioning, weights, team sessions - and also bonding time as well, getting to know each other better before facing what is a massive task."

The Lions have not faced New Zealand for 12 years, last time conceding 107 points in the three Tests as they fell to the current World Champions. North says the All Blacks will prove to be a huge test for the British side.

"They are world champions and play an amazing brand of rugby," said North.

"I think a lot of it is just the confidence they have in each other and the team to know they can go points behind, they can be under the cosh for a while, but they can turn games around and still win.

"The skill-set they have from numbers one to 23 - they've got props throwing 20-metre passes off left or right hand - their game understanding and game awareness is great.

"And if you look at the fact how well the New Zealand Super Rugby sides are playing, it shows exactly where they are and the quality of players they've got."

Unlike Lawes, this will not be North's first experience of Lions rugby, having been on the tour in 2013 shortly before coming to Northampton. The winger says there is a lot to be learned from the 2013 tour but they must use that experience to progress in New Zealand. 

"I think from a player's point of view, we learnt a lot from 2013, not just from what we achieved as a squad, and we can use that as a springboard to push on again.

"The whole tour was a great experience, and one that will always stay with me. It is a tremendous honour to be selected for the Lions.

"I had never experienced it before, but special is the word to describe it. Players from four nations coming together is brilliant."