Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Date: Saturday 22nd June 2013 20.00 local (11.00 UK)
UK Television: Sky Sports 1 & HD 1 (10.30 UK)
Weather: Clear skies with light winds, Max 14 degrees
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert, Romain Poite (France)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Assessor: Clayton Thomas
|Australia||The British & Irish Lions|
|15. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
14. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
12. Christian Leali’ifano (Brumbies)
11. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
10. James O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
7. Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
6. Ben Mowen (Brumbies)
5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds) (c)
4. Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
|15: Leigh Halfpenny
14: Alex Cuthbert
13: Jonathan Davies
12: Brian O’Driscoll
11: George North
10: Jonathan Sexton
9: Mike Phillips
8: Jamie Heaslip
7: Sam Warburton (c)
6: Tom Croft
5: Paul O’Connell
4: Alun Wyn Jones
3: Adam Jones
2: Tom Youngs
1: Alex Corbisiero
|16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
18. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
19. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
20. Liam Gill (Queensland Reds
21. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
22. Pat McCabe (Brumbies)
23. Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels)
|16: Richard Hibbard
17: Mako Vunipola
18: Dan Cole
19: Geoff Parling
20: Dan Lydiate
21: Ben Youngs
22: Owen Farrell
23: Sean Maitland
After all the waiting and all the build up, we’re finally here. This is the big one. The first test match between the Qantas Wallabies and the British & Irish Lions.
Tomorrow evening in Brisbane, the Lions will take to the field to avenge the series defeat by Australia suffered in 2001 and the Lions have an excellent chance of doing just that.
This isn’t just another test match. These Lions matches are rare. The Wallaby players will only get one shot at this, and most of the Lions on show will only get one shot at this. The stakes couldn’t be higher for both sides.
The only man who has experience of this before is Brian O’Driscoll. The Ireland and Leinster centre has been picked to line up against the Wallabies, twelve years after making his Lions debut in the same city. O’Driscoll famously announced his arrival on the world stage with a fantastic try ghosting through the Wallaby defence. Just to remind you:
Brian O’Driscoll will line up in his seventh test for the British & Irish Lions having played in all three matches on the 2001 tour. Alongside him in the centre will be Jonathan Davies playing in his test for the British & Irish Lions. Davies has been fortunate that other centre options Manu Tuilagi and Jamie Roberts have succumbed to injury during the tour and he has been able to stake his claim. That’s not to say that Davies does not deserve his place. After consistently performing well on the tour he has played himself in, but he was expected to deputise for his centre colleague O’Drisoll rather than play alongside him.
Outside the centres the familiar Welsh back three of Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert and George North will form a settled look to the attack, and Lions Coach Warren Gatland will be hoping that their familiarity will enable them to use those combinations to good effect during the game.
Mike Phillips and Jonny Sexton line up in the half back positions and much will be expected from the two. Phillips came out of the blocks like a train in the first tour match against the Barbarians with a man of the match display, but has not quite been so effective since. Given he will be up against the best scrum half in world rugby in Will Genia, he will again need to up his game to compete. Jonny Sexton should give a settled presence at fly half and his controlled and calm approach will be key to setting the Lions back line off and running.
In the forward pack, the only real surprise in the team is the omission of Mako Vunipola in favour of the better scrummaging power of Alex Corbisiero. The former London Irish man (now of Northampton Saints) was not picked for the tour party, but was called up following injuries to Cian Healy na dGethin Jenkins, and the prop has quietly gone about his business and played his way into the team. Vunipola has dropped to the bench in order to better use his work around the field when the Aussies are tiring.
The two locks picked themselves. 2009 tour captain Paul O’Connell was an injury doubt coming into the tour and much like his Ireland colleague O’Driscoll Warren Gatland has used him sparingly to ensure he is as fit and fresh as possible given his importance to the side. Alun Wyn Jones has also been kept wrapped up in cotton wool because both players are so vitally important to the Lions chances in the series.
The key area of competition however, and one of the Aussies real strengths, will be in the back row. Gatland has opted to go for the combination of captain Sam Warburton at 7, with Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip at 6 and 8 accordingly. The balance in that back row looks a little off. Both Croft and Heaslip like to play around the field and pop up and cause problems elsewhere around the back line, but this leaves the breakdown area a little exposed with just Warburton there to apply any pressure.
This will put more emphasis on the front five to get stuck into the breakdown as well and with only Warburton from the back row making tackles, it could well be an area the Wallabies will target, especially given their strength in that area of the field. The selection of Croft and Heaslip together represents quite a gamble for Warren Gatland, and if Warburton finds himself without support then Gatland will have a lot of questions to answer for in his team selection there.
The Aussies come into this match as a little bit of an unknown. They haven’t played a test match (or any other warm up match either) this year yet and have named three debutants in their side. No-one really knows how they are how they are likely to go in this first test.
They’ve got a good mix of experience and untainted freshness. The key to this game will be how Michael Hooper and Will Genia get on. If they get a decent grip on the game then the Lions are going to be in trouble because the back line outside them is outstanding and will really hurt the Lions. ll eyes will be on new boy Israel Folau, but Digby Ioane and Berrick Barnes are both supremely talented finishers who have been there and done it already.
All in all, we’re set up for a fantastic test match between two very good sides. The battle of the breakdown will be crucial to hos this match goes. If the Lions front five can support Warburton enough, then it’s game on, but if the Wallabies find they’re only up against the Lions skipper then Hooper and Genia will run amok.
Passion alone will not win you a test match, but in the case of the Lions, it can make quite a difference to how the Lions feel when they go out to play. The Lions have already had their ceremonial presentation of their jerseys for the test tomorrow presented by Sir Ian McGeechan, and you can see this here: https://twitter.com/lionsofficial/status/347993611759132672/photo/1
The Lions take to the field tomorrow representing every one of us and they take a weight of history with them. I’d like to leave you with a little reminder of where the Lions left off four years ago. There isn’t anyone better placed to leave us all with some thoughts of how important this game is than Mr Lions himself:
Comments from British & Irish Lions fans on the Forum
We usually place a small comment from someone on the board here who gives an opinion on the match but I’m just going to copy a post a piece written by ScarletLion which is more rallying call than critical opinion. Says very much what every Lions fan will be thinking:
“Isn’t it strange that what we’ve been waiting 4 years for is only 3 sleeps away.
Most of us joined this site because we were Lions fanatics. And it’s almost upon us. I wish I was out there, it must be quite something to be part of a Lions touring party (although I’d rather do one of the other 2 personally ).
No matter who’s picked I’ll support them. No matter who drops the ball he needs to get back up again and keep going.
On another note, I feel that this Summer, is the time when Australian sport is going to crumble a notch. The Lions and the Ashes – in 3 months. Now is the time to shut the Pom haters up and make them realise that we’re not just a group of pasty white, warm beer drinking, sheep loving, haggis eating pansies. The Olympics showed we can compete at the highest level – against the odds. We can do it. Lets shove it up em.”
Join in the chat at our Lions Tour Forum to have your say, and next time it could be your comments here.
This is such a difficult game to predict. Much depends on the outcome of the breakdown and it really could go either way. The game will undoubtedly start at a frenetic pace, both sides will be at each other from the first whistle. If the Lions can negate the threat of Hooper and Genia then they have a good chance to catch the Wallabies a little cold. I’m going for a small margin win for the Lions.
Qantas Wallabies 17 British & Irish Lions 23