It won’t console George North much, but the 6ft 4in, 16st 7lb three-quarter is one player who could have made a difference for the Lions in South Africa.
With his height, he could have been a key figure in the all-important aerial battles.
And his powerful carrying would have asked questions of the Springboks’ defence.
But it wasn’t to be.
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A knee injury sustained on Ospreys duty in April saw the 105-cap player knocked out of contention for a place in Warren Gatland’s squad. It was a savage blow for the player, and for the Lions as well, with no like-for-like replacement available.
The bump has condemned North to viewing events from afar, and he admitted on social media this week he hasn’t found it easy, saying: “I’ve found this injury tough. Mentally and physically. Especially watching the summer rugby.
“We all know the risk of stepping on the field, but it’s still pants when you get injured.”
That post followed a more upbeat one in which he reported that his first three-month check-up with his surgeon had been positive, adding: “It won’t be too long before I’ll be lacing up my boots again.”
Which will cheer a lot of people, especially in Wales.
The big man had found his best form prior to his injury, excelling for the Ospreys and for Wales, for whom he had been playing in the centre in a positional switch that appeared to reinvigorate him at Test level. Few, if any, Welsh backs performed better than North as Wayne Pivac’s side won the Six Nations title.
All that remained was to round off a fine season with a Lions tour.
But the script didn’t play out that way, with North sustaining cruciate ligament damage in a Rainbow Cup match against Cardiff Blues on April 24.
It is hard to imagine how difficult it must be for a sports person when dreams are crushed in such a way. All that hard work over a period of years, with the Lions as the main goal to work towards — all that effort ultimately in vain.
Speaking after the Lions Teston Saturday, North confirmed the summer had been hugely challenging.
“It’s been tough watching the rugby over the last few weeks,” he said.
“Making the tour was always the goal.
“I’d been enjoying my rugby again and had worked hard to be in a position to be in the selection debate, but the injury ruled me out.
“You just have to try to crack on.
“I’ve had some positive news and now it’s a case of just keeping working hard so I can get back.
“I don’t have a return schedule just yet.
“After next week, I will sit down with the physio team, draw up a plan and be completely focused on that.”
Despite his watching brief not being an easy one, North has been following the Lions series, which stands at 1-1 after South Africa’s victory in Saturday’s second Test.
The Springboks achieved their win after a dominant second half in Cape Town and will have momentum heading for the decider this weekend, but North doesn’t accept the accept the game is up for the tourists.
“The result can be reversed, 100 percent,” he said.
“This is now all or nothing, with the players having an opportunity not many people have, to go out there and play in a Test series decider.
“South Africa were never going to let the Lions win the series without a fight. They were always going to come out all guns blazing after their loss in the first encounter.
“They just played a better Test match in the second game.
“I know how many good players there are in the Lions squad, so there’s still plenty of hope.
“I just think they lost a bit of momentum in the second half and there weren’t so many of those double hits they’d been putting in.
“And when you lose momentum, the penalty count goes up.
“It happened in the first Test to South Africa, but this time it happened to the Lions.
“When you are losing that physical battle it’s always going to be a difficult one.
“But South Africa turned things around in a week, so there’s no obvious reason why the Lions can’t do the same.”
Few marks would have been awarded for artistic impression on Saturday, with the sides making errors amid a scrappy affair blighted by several dust-ups and close refereeing calls.
“It wasn’t an exciting Test, was it?” said North.
“But it’s a results business, and whether you win by one point or 100 points, it’s a Test match series and it’s the win that counts.
“So it’s a case of ‘well done to South Africa’. But it’s all down to the final game now. It doesn’t matter how you do it, it’s just about getting that victory.”
One Welsh player North feels would significantly add to the Lions’ game this coming weekend is Liam Williams.
“You need a solid back three who are safe in the air against South Africa,” he said.
“Sanjay (Williams) offers you those skills in the air. I would pick him.
“I don’t know what Gats will do. Historically, he trusts boys to step up when he gives them a chance. I suppose you could flip it around and say that the back-three boys have had two chances now.
“Given the aerial battle, you’d expect someone like Sanjay to be playing because that’s one of his strongest areas.”
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The element of bad feeling that blighted the game was brought on by the fractious build-up, with Rassie Erasmus and Siya Kolisi making pre-game comments that turned up the heat.
“Considering all the white noise in the press before the match, with Rassie and then Kolisi coming out with stuff, there were always going to be heated battles and shots put in,” added North.
“There was a lot of niggle, especially in the first half. That’s not rugby.
“That’s just all the off-field stuff that’s had an effect on it.”
Still, North wishes he could have been there.
But there’ll be other big days for the Lion of 2013 and 2017.
At 29, he has plenty of rugby left in him.
George North was speaking on behalf of Land Rover. Join the Land Rover Lions Adventure on Twitter @LandRoverRugby #LionsAdventure
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