Quinnell merits back-row berth

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The Independent Online

Mind games being played off the pitch in Australia are more dangerous than the punch-ups on it. I doubt if Ronan O'Gara will agree as he nurses his stitched-up eye this week, but he'll get over it.

More important is that players lick their wounds and concentrate on their preparations for Saturday's first Test. Let Graham Henry tackle the psychological warfare. He's good at it. Not only that, he is a Kiwi, and the Australians dislike the Kiwis even more than they dislike the Lions, so he can wind them up unmercifully.

The Aussies are good at stressing the negatives and trying to sow disharmony and doubts in opposition ranks. Henry can take them on at that game while his team worry about the important matters.

In any case, I'm not sure the Lions would benefit by feeling hard-done-by. As punch-ups go, it was probably not as bad as many that have taken place on previous Lions tours, and the Waratahs probably came off worse. Losing their big lock Tom Bowman was a severe blow, especially as his offence didn't deserve a sin-binning.

The point is that the Lions win would have restored their morale after the disappointments of the Australian A game. The trouble is that the performance would have cheered the watching Wallabies as well, because it highlighted a few Lions weaknesses behind the scrum.

That doesn't mean that the pendulum has swung the Aussies' way. The first Test was always going to be a close call and it still is. I wouldn't like to predict the result.

I feel that the Lions have the edge in the pack, so that will probably encourage them to play it tight. After yesterday's game, the captain, Martin Johnson, talked about losing their structure after the second- half fracas. I think structure is important to them, so they will place much of their faith in it.

Team selection doesn't look as if it is going to be a difficult problem. Certainly the media seem to be in agreement about it.

Iain Balshaw will play full-back, but I have to admit that I'm worried about him. He lets his enthusiasm for running cloud his judgement in certain situations, and Australia would have picked up on this. They will target him with long kicks and chase them like hell hoping that he will choose to run.

In fact, the only fault I can see with the back three – I expect the wingers to be Jason Robinson and Dafydd James – is that there isn't a natural kicker amongst them. That could persuade the selectors to go for Austin Healey instead of James, but that would make for a small back-three.

Will Greenwood, if fit, and Brian O'Driscoll pick themselves at centre, and I would think that Robert Howley will partner Jonny Wilkinson at half-back. Howley's injury seems to have cleared, and his early performances would have won him the vote over Matt Dawson, who hasn't quite done enough to oust him.

In the front row I would pick Darren Morris to accompany Keith Wood and Phil Vickery. There isn't much to choose between Morris and Tom Smith but I would want the extra bulk that Morris brings. At second-row, Johnson and Danny Grewcock pick themselves and, despite all the debates before the tour, so does the back-row.

Lawrence Dallaglio is not himself at the moment and Scott Quinnell deserves to join Neil Back and Richard Hill. Quinnell played well yesterday and I couldn't understand the criticism that he kept carrying the ball too far. What do they expect him to do, slow down and let the others catch up?

I think the composition of the bench will be the most interesting selection. I'm not even sure that Dallaglio will get the vote over Martin Corry, who has been looking very good. And if Scott Gibbs has a good game on Tuesday, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a place. Greenwood and O'Driscoll are terrific ball-players, but there might come a stage in the game when they need a banger at centre.

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