It’s nearly time for the biggest Lions game since, well, since the last one. But this game in Sydney has the added ingredient of being the decider in a series that is so close it has a points difference after two Tests of just +1 in favour of the British & Irish Lions , and to borrow from The Beautiful South, this outing promises to be, “closer than a cat to the baby that it smothered”.
There has been a great deal of bullshit furore in the build-up about the non-selection of Brian O’Driscoll; with some stating that with this decision, and his plumping for ten Welshmen in the fifteen, Warren Gatland has basically smeared bat goz in the face of all Lions players and fans, past and present and the Lion mascot itself. I’ve written a separate post on what a towering pile of nonsense it is to single this one-nation-heavy selection out for particular opprobrium.
The loss of BOD will be felt in terms of experience, but it won’t be felt in terms of attack and the Lions need to attack a great deal more than they did in Melbourne. No amount of calm headedness and savvy can save a team that is defending for thirty minutes of the second half, as the Lions did for the defeat last week. This will be solved by better ball control up front, hence the forward changes, and better decision making and execution at 10, especially where Sexton’s kicking out of hand is concerned. Territorial kicking has been rank bad for the tourists in each Test so far.
The Aussies will probably be happy that BOD is not playing, but they will know that once they cross the whitewash on Saturday this will mean nothing as they still have to beat a bloody decent side. The recall of George Smith is key, as the arch-snitcher at the breakdown faces off against the rampaging Sean O’Brien, who is better on the ground than given credit for, but not in Smith’s league. Simply put, if the Lions forwards play as they did last week then they are going to lose, so Gatland has put everything into the power game he so loves, believing that if his big men do what they are capable of, then Beale, Folau and the like will be spectators, as the Lions’ own backline was last week. I believe this Lions team will rise above the comments this week, surprise us all and do the business.
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B&M Prediction: I’ve predicted Lions by 3 for the first two Tests, I see no reason to change it now.
Spotter’s Badge: BOD getting more camera time than the 30 players on the field put together.
Australia: Kurtley Beale; Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane; James O’Connor, Will Genia; Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander; Kane Douglas, James Horwill (c); Ben Mowen, George Smith, Wycliff Palu.
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, Nick Phipps, Jesse Mogg.
British & Irish Lions: 15-Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), 14-Tommy Bowe (Ireland), 13-Jonathan Davies (Wales), 12-Jamie Roberts (Wales), 11-George North (Wales), 10-Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), 9-Mike Phillips (Wales), 8-Toby Faletau (Wales), 7-Sean O'Brien (Ireland), 6-Dan Lydiate (Wales), 5-Geoff Parling (England), 4-Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 3-Adam Jones (Wales), 2-Richard Hibbard (Wales), 1-Alex Corbisiero (England)
Replacements – 16-Tom Youngs (England), Mako Vunipola (England), 18-Dan Cole (England), 19-Richie Gray (Scotland), 20-
Justin Tipuric (Wales), 21-Conor Murray (Ireland), 22-Owen Farrell (England), 23-Manu Tuilagi (England)