Simon Shaw: Warren Gatland will select the brave as the going gets tough for the Lions

In Saturday’s First Test the Lions will be facing class, committed players who never give up

I am backing the Lions to win the First Test next Saturday, and as I get ready to fly Down Under and lead a group of supporters in Brisbane, the nerves and excitement are building superbly.

It will be a different role for me, and I can only envy the Lions this week but also I feel plenty of empathy. Having toured as a player in 1997, 2005 and 2009 I know how the atmosphere changes in the last days before the opening Test. There’s a lot of tension around, waiting for the selection. Some players will know it’s too late for them already but they must keep showing total commitment.

In ’09 I was absolutely gutted to be left out of the First Test when I was convinced I’d have a bench spot at least. But I would tell anyone in the same position this week to keep working. Warren Gatland will be looking for the guys whose heads are down, and the ones who keep striving. In ’09, having put my all into preparing to be a bench player, I found myself starting the Second and Third Tests. You have to be ready when the chance comes. I’ve never faced Australia as a Lion but I did it a few times with England and you are guaranteed two things above all else: 100 per cent commitment – they never give up, and the proof is in their last-minute miracle comebacks – and they have class footballers, whatever team they put out. Ball in hand or ball to foot, the Wallabies have an instinctive ability to know where to attack and what to do in the right moments. From Tim Horan and Jason Little a generation ago, to Matt Giteau, to the Kurtley Beales and James O’Connors now, they seem to have it all.

Believe me, it’s particularly disconcerting if you’re a forward stuck in a back line with the likes of Beale coming at you, picking his pass, his dummy, his sidestep. It happened to me often enough, finding myself screaming for support! That footballing ability extends to the Wallabies’ forwards. What they offer around the pitch, and also their offloading, is up with the best. The set-piece, though, is different. It is unpredictable. Aussie packs often lack size and technical ability. I’ve played in games – Perth in 2010 with England springs to mind – when we’ve literally had them running backwards. But I’ve also played when they’ve put it together.

A lot of scrummaging is in the head, you know. You can be beaten before you go out on the pitch. Much as it would suit the Lions, I very much doubt these Aussies will go out believing they will be dominated. Front-rowers like Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore and Benn Robinson are no mugs. And I like the captain, James Horwill, in the second row. He has a cool head and his running ability, line-outs and other basics are good. So what do the Lions need to do to win? Mike Phillips has got to outplay Will Genia at scrum-half and a great deal of that will depend on who wins the forwards’ fight.

If one team goes flying back at the first scrum it is a huge psychological blow – but that is very rare. I prefer to watch what happens 20 or 25 minutes later, when you get a truer impression of who’s on top. I think Australia will try and keep the pace of the game up, and run the Lions pack around to wear them out.

Get the ball in and away as soon as possible, not hang around trying to squeeze penalties – whereas the Lions may well do that, keeping the scrum ball at the No 8’s feet hoping for a penalty. They call it “scrummaging long” in Australia. The trouble is, the referee may not play ball, and the Lions’ leaders need to be alive to that. It’s no good moaning about the officials after the event.

I am expecting the Lions to mix up their tactics more than they have done so far – to use a line-out drive, and work the scrum-half off mauls and scrums. The back row is still an area of debate.

I’m certain Gatland will have had a word in Tom Croft’s ear yesterday – something like “this is it, you’ve got this game to prove yourself” – and he did play well, but there are good options in Sean O’Brien as a ball-carrying No 6 or Dan Lydiate. When the coach said Sam Warburton is not guaranteed a start, that was all part of the coach’s mind games. There’s always truth in what “Gats” says. It also dangles a carrot for the big game. I am sure Warburton will be in now. He and all the Lions must know this is the week the tour gets serious.

Simon Shaw is riding with a group of rugby players from London to Paris to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust and Restart Rugby. It starts on 18 July. Joining him will be Nick Easter, Serge Betsen, Tim Payne, Kenny Logan and others. To take part, contact Ian@setpieceevents.co.uk. To sponsor, visit www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/TeamKarma or donate £5 by texting KARM49 to 70070.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
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

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform