The giant wing is part of an all Welsh back three as he links up with Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert. There are also starts for Jonathan Davies in the centre and Mike Phillips at scrum half while Sam Warburton leads the side and Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones both feature in the pack.
But after seeing North in blistering form before suffering his injury, Lions assistant coach Howley is particularly pleased to have him available.
"It is great to have someone of his physicality, power and speed," was Howley's assessment on North's importance to the side.
"We have only seen glimpses of George so far. He is probably one of the best athletes I've been involved with."
"He can change direction very quickly, he has a great step and speed and when you are able to bring him into those channels at 10, 12 or 13, he is pretty instrumental."
North is one of eight new Test Lions in Saturday's side but there is also plenty of experience for Gatland to call on. Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell add extra leadership while Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip both toured with the Lions in 2009.
Howley has helped nurture North through the Welsh set-up since he crossed for two tries on his debut against South Africa in 2010. And ahead of the series opener in Brisbane, it's a performance he still has fond memories of.
"I remember his debut and he had 21 or 22 touches. His work-rate is phenomenal," said the former Wales scrum half.
"You want your best players on the ball as often as possible and he works tirelessly at his game.
"It is good for the Lions to have someone like George."
While North is fit to start against the Wallabies, the news is not so good surrounding Jamie Roberts. The Welsh centre has failed to recover from a hamstring injury suffered against the New South Wales Waratahs and misses out this weekend.
"Jamie has progressed a significant amount from where he was," reported Howley.
"It is how he progresses in the next couple of days. We will take a decision next week but are hoping he will be fit for second Test selection."
On the Lions game plan for the first Test, Howley added: "I think we have got the ability to play a gain-line game, or a passing game with a lot of magic in there.
"I am looking forward to the combinations and mix that is going to come in the next few weeks. We need to create and score tries."