Lions ring changes to stop history repeating


The Lions have been here before. We won the first Test in Brisbane 12 years ago and everyone was feeling confident off the back of that performance. But we came to Melbourne and were beaten and then we lost the series in Sydney. No one wants a repeat of that. It is all about making sure this game is won and Warren Gatland’s selections reflect that.

June 29, 2013

Jason Robinson

George Gregan and John EalesVictory 2001: George Gregan, Rod Macqueen and John Eales. Photo: Nick Wilson / Allsport

He has brought in Ben Youngs to replace Mike Phillips at halfback, which should give the Lions a little more zip around the ruck. Tommy Bowe coming back on to the wing is also massive. The Irishman and George North in combination with fullback Leigh Halfpenny will threaten the Wallabies everywhere if the ball ends up in their hands.

It is a strong Lions team and they will be confident going into this game but also mindful that the game last week could have been lost. Although the Australians took a lot of injuries and had to make a lot of changes, they came within a whisker of winning the game.

They will have looked at the video and at all those changes in Australia’s back line and said ”If that kick goes over everything is radically different.” That shows how close these games are and is probably why Gatland has decided to make a few changes.

It was interesting to see Robbie Deans stick with James O’Connor at five-eighth and push Kurtley Beale back to fullback.

Last week, with those few runs he made in Brisbane, Beale showed he certainly knows how to break a defensive line.

I am a massive fan of his and I think that missing that final kick will have disappointed him so he will be out to make a statement this week.

The Lions need to keep a close eye on Israel Folau as well, because scoring two tries on your debut is ridiculous and if the Wallabies can get more ball out to him he will cause more problems for the tourists.

It was always going to be difficult for O’Connor. When you’re not used to playing No.10 it’s one of the highest pressure positions on the field and when your team suffers the injuries that they did it’s always going to put more pressure on you. But it’s pretty simple for him, his job is to control the game, he’s got to get his guys playing in the right areas and involved as much as possible.

At times he also needs to get a little deeper, because I’m sure the Lions will look to put as much pressure on him as possible. But O’Connor is a fantastic player, there is no doubt about it, and just playing those 80 minutes there would have done him the world of good. He’ll be looking to work well with Will Genia, who is one of the best players on the planet at the moment.

When I think back to the 2001 series there is no doubt that winning the first game gives you a massive boost and in a lot of ways you also play knowing you have that buffer.

In the first half we played really well, we were leading 11-6 at the break, and it was only in the second half that it all fell apart. You often talk about games turning at a certain point. In that Test match it was really winger Joe Roff’s intercept try in the 41st minute that started to swing it in favour of the Wallabies. You look at all Tests and quite often they come down to one or two things. Twelve years ago it was Roff’s interception; who knows what it’s going to be in this game.

But for all the Lions’ justified confidence heading into this match, you can never underestimate an Australian side down on its luck.

Even though they lost the first Test 12 years ago and they lost it again this time around, every time you play the Wallabies they are a very confident side.

And you know that even though you’re one-up, you can’t take anything for granted.

From an Australian perspective, when you are forced into a position where you have to win a game, it tends to bring out the best in the players.

I’m sure we’ll see a massive performance from the Wallabies.

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Jesse Mogg.

British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Makovina Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Alex Cuthbert.

Date: Saturday, June 29
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Kick-off: 20.05 AEST (11.05 UK & Ireland time; 10.05 GMT)
Expected weather: Mostly clear evening in Melbourne with a minimum of 7°C and a maximum of 15°C. The roof will be closed so rain will not be a factor.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Romain Poite (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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  1. Reply to Mug Punters Organisation of South Africa @ 6:26 am:

    Roof is closed tonight…

    They had better… 5 missed PK’s lost me a bit of money for a 1-12pt upset by the Aussies…

    I’m a bit weary about the insane size of the Lion’s backs (centre’s and wings average 105kgs) again but now with a more nippy 9… and the scars Lealiifano must have after that nasty concussion…

    Going to have to see some magic from the backs… huge step up for Tomane… they’ll target him with Ione out and 10/12 again…

    Much more potent bench too by the Lions with more mobile flank/lock…

    Positives are the Wallabies pack looked great (although I’d have Smith starting let alone in the 22 he’s still the best in the business)…

    Going to have to muster up everything this team mentally and physically to beat the Lions and the bookies…

    Brits already deeming themselves winners on social media…

  2. Reply to Americano @ 7:37 am:

    I’ll tell you in another season or two… but geez he was mercurial last weekend… his vision and skills to put Folau and a few away when most would not have chosen the option was amazing…

    So far more skilled… but doesn’t have that niggle factor Gregan had…