Brain Smith: At squeaky bum time new Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones will be wavering

Expect Wyn Jones to look for advice because he won’t be confident enough

There was one moment in Melbourne last weekend that exposed the difference in philosophy between the Lions and the Wallabies – one moment that went to the heart of the matter and may resonate at close of play in Sydney today.

It was the decision of the Australian captain, James Horwill, to scrum a penalty deep in the last 10 minutes rather than shoot for the sticks. Here was a captain prepared to go for broke rather than settle for something shared. Here was a bloke bold enough to make the big call.

It was not the only big call of the last few days – decisions don’t come much bigger than Warren Gatland’s selection of a midfield combination without Brian O’Driscoll’s name at the hub of it – but it was hugely significant. Six points down with as many minutes left, the Wallabies used that scrum to manufacture a match-winning try for Adam Ashley-Cooper and deny the Lions the series victory they were beginning to feel was theirs. Brave? I can’t recall anything more courageous in recent times.

The question is this: would the Lions have made that call had the boot been on the other foot? I doubt it. And now that O’Driscoll has joined Sam Warburton and Paul O’Connell on the sidelines, the doubt is even stronger. Alun Wyn Jones, a Lions captain for the day, may be faced with just such a conundrum. If he is, his nerves will be in shreds. Expect him to look to the touchline for advice, because he won’t be too confident about shouldering the responsibility alone.

The Lions want to “squeeze” the game at scrum and breakdown with some serious physicality, kick their penalties – they have Leigh Halfpenny’s boot in their armoury, after all – and scuttle off in to the night having edged it by a fraction.

The Wallabies are sufficiently sure of themselves to try something more adventurous and I take them to win by a single score. It will be tight, I’m convinced of that. The Australians are favourites, but when the occasion is this fraught, it’s often better to go in as the underdog. If the Lions can cramp the Wallabies’ style and force them into the kinds of back-line errors they were making for much of last week’s match, the gremlin in the Aussie brain will start making its presence felt.

Was Gatland right to do away with O’Driscoll? I can see a good deal of logic in it. The Lions want an attacking pattern based on Mike Phillips and Jamie Roberts combining off clean ball from the back of the line-out. Once we establish that it is Roberts who has done for O’Driscoll and not Jonathan Davies – who has been the pick of the centres – it all fits. Besides, O’Driscoll has not been the same since being refereed out of the Brisbane Test by Chris Pollock.

The public’s view of leadership is old-fashioned. There’s a lot of talk about O’Driscoll the talisman and he’s been one hell of an inspiration to a lot of teams. But the idea of one man running the show in the way a cricket captain does is well off-beam. This is an 80-minute thing with the ground prepared in a dozen briefings and umpteen hours of analysis. A lot of the game will be played to a pattern. There could be the odd “Horwill moment”, but there won’t be many.

The line-out area is crucial to the Lions but the Wallabies will be confident of handling things there. Their concern is the scrum. I’ve spent some time with my fellow Australians this week and they think the Lions are illegal at the set piece.

They think the Lions are wheeling deliberately on the  loose-head side in an effort to milk penalties from the referee, and I’ll be astonished if they haven’t been in to the Frenchman Romain Poite on the subject. Poite will have some big calls of his own to make today – calls that could easily decide  the outcome.

 

Follow live updates of Australia v British and Irish Lions by clicking HERE.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz