Rugby Union

George North urges Lions to roar before it is too late

Wales winger George North will make his first appearance of the Lions tour to New Zealand against Crusaders today and he has urged Warren Gatland's men to find their form and get the tour back on track Picture: PA

George North believes it is up to the British and Irish Lions players to conjure the magic that boss Warren Gatland is searching for.

Head coach Gatland has challenged his squad to sprinkle some attacking stardust onto his aggressive game plan, for the Lions to stand a chance in the Test series against New Zealand.

And Wales powerhouse wing North insists the Lions players must shoulder that responsibility as Gatland's men start to shape their Test match approach.

"I don't think Warren's put that challenge onto any one individual, he's put it to us as a squad," said North, of Gatland's X-factor search.

"I guess if you come to New Zealand you know you're going to get a lot of X-factor coming back at you and I think he's put it to the squad, and we have to deliver some ourselves.

"We know obviously the challenge is huge and the games are tight.

"I was touring here with Wales last summer and we saw how tough it can be especially in those last 10 minutes.

"If we can stay strong in our defence and hold them out then sometimes you need that little bit of X-factor to win games or turn games around."

North will make his first start of the New Zealand tour in today's crunch clash with runaway Super Rugby leaders the Crusaders.

The Canterbury side have won 14 from 14 Super Rugby encounters this term, and will boast a full All Black tight-five among a stellar line-up.

North helped the Lions to their 2013 series win over Australia, and is now itching to get going all over again.

The 25-year-old will form part of a potent line-up that hints at Gatland's selection for the fast-approaching first Test, at Auckland's Eden Park on June 24.

"The Lions is the highlight of anyone's career and to go on tour and not feature in the first two games is annoying," said North.

"Like any rugby player I just want to play. But I've got my chance now and I'm looking forward to the opportunity.

"We came here knowing it would be hard, the challenge ahead of us is massive. We always knew the first two to three, possibly four games would be a tough one to ride out; for various combinations, for players coming in; players and staff knowing your role and stuff.

"We knew that. New Zealand players never back down from a challenge, so we knew it would be tough.

"But preparing with tough games is better. We wanted to be tested through every game. Get that and you become a better team as you go along."

Tour captain Sam Warburton will miss the Crusaders clash with an ankle problem, though Lions bosses still expect the Wales flanker to be fit in plenty of time to contest a Test spot.

Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien will make his first appearance of the tour against the Crusaders – and his first appearance of any kind since suffering calf damage on April 1.

The Leinster battering ram is desperate to hit top speed in a bid to chase a Test place, but insisted he does not want to benefit from Warburton's injury.

Asked if Warburton's injury would hand him greater hope of a Test shirt, O'Brien said: "No, I'm not thinking like that.

"Any opportunity I'm given I'm going to do what I can do.

"I'm not going to be banking on Sam being injured or not, I'm going to try to play my game and hopefully that's good enough to be selected."

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