British and Irish Lions 2013: First Test against Australia - key areas
Sunday 16 June 2013
The Lions kept it simple in the line-out against the Waratahs yesterday, using Jamie Heaslip and Tom Croft at the front, Paul O’Connell hardly at all, and only once going to the tail, when Richard Hibbard overthrew beyond Sam Warburton near the end. The Wallabies will attack hard here. Referees are getting on Mako Vunipola’s case for not scrummaging straight and the absence of Cian Healy, injured, and Andy Sheridan, not even selected, may yet haunt the Lions.
If it comes down to penalties and conversions, the Lions can bank on the astonishing Leigh Halfpenny, who simply does not look like missing. The Wallabies’ James O’Connor, if he is given the role, is not in the same class.
Sam Warburton found his groove in Sydney yesterday, with able back-up from Tom Croft, but could the Lions do with another full-on forager – Sean O’Brien perhaps? Southern hemisphere referees Chris Pollock and Craig Joubert will handle the First and Second Tests; they tend to ping players going beyond the tackle, preventing quick ball. The Lions must be accurate for 80 minutes.
The Lions have been playing while the Wallabies have been training (coach Robbie Deans). Best use of players from the bench could be crucial for the tourists, as their reserve front five seem capable of causing damage. But a greater danger may be Australia letting rip in the opening 20 minutes.
The funniest thing to emerge from the tour to date is Warburton’s tweet of Dan Lydiate getting his hair cut in a fancy salon. Hmm. But this isn’t a series of stand-up comedy gigs. The Lions’ team spirit looks good. It will need to be against possibly the gutsiest group in world rugby.
Alun Wyn Jones may not have an obvious mean streak but he stood up to all the Waratahs’ roughing-up yesterday and kept tackling. Australia will defend with cohesion while the Lions must guard against the hosts’ brilliant ball-players outflanking their blitz in the wide channels. Other areas need tightening up after yesterday’s try conceded from a line-out drive and a short throw that caught the Lions napping.
Sam Warburton was picked in part for his affinity with referees, notably Craig Joubert, and the captain was quietly in the ear of Jaco Peyper yesterday. But Australia’s James Horwill doesn’t look the type easily ruffled. Two good men who are about to face the ultimate test of leadership.
David De Gea to Real Madrid: Spanish club resume £28m pursuit after fending Manchester United off Sergio Ramos
Karim Benzema to Arsenal: Transfer news live - Angel Di Maria to leave Manchester United, Emmanuel Adebayor to Aston Villa
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015 Third Test Day One report: England skittle Australia for 136, James Anderson takes six wickets, Ian Bell hits half-century
Nicolas Otamendi to Manchester United: Sergio Ramos is only defender of interest to Louis van Gaal
- 1 Australia to impose 24-hour curfew on all cats to protect endangered species
- 2 Model's video shoot on the beach interrupted by sudden landing of a group of illegal migrants
- 3 The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath
- 4 MH370: Boeing 777 wing that could match missing plane found on the French island of Reunion
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Labour leadership contest: I would never quit the party, says Liz Kendall