Like most rugby fans, I’ve been avidly following the goings-on of the British and Irish Lions Tour to Australia.
I must admit, I wasn’t expecting such a comfortable victory over a strong looking Barbarians side in Hong Kong. I guess the motivation of securing a Test shirt for the Lions really concentrates the mind and proved the difference when it came to performance levels. Then, when a succession of understrength Australian Super 15 copped a hammering, I half thought that the Lions might go through the tour unbeaten.
So whilst a disappointing result, it was refreshing to really see the Brumbies take it to the Lions. Of course, parachuting in a number of players who’d barely trained - let alone played – together did nothing for the Lions patterns of play. And the less said about the lineout the better! Still, it gave the squad more focus for the Test series.
A few mates came round to my house to watch the game and we were really bouncing come kick-off. A few of the boys got on the beer early but, as I’m in the middle of pre-season training, I had to content myself with orange juice!
The Lions started really well, but despite all the injury disruption, Australia did what all Australian sides do and managed to drag themselves back into the game. They really don’t know when they’re beaten. We all had our fingers crossed when Kurtley Beale lined up those last couple of kicks but fortunately for us – and unfortunately for him – he missed them both.
So, we’re on to the second Test, and I must admit I’m surprised by some of Gatland’s picks. I feel desperately sorry for my Cardiff Blues teammate, Alex Cuthbert. I think I’m right in saying that he’s not failed to score a try in all the games he’s started on tour and did very little wrong in that first Test. He’s the sort of guy who always manages to make something happen – if the Blues are in trouble he calls for the ball and always makes a lot of ground for us. Don’t get me wrong, Tommy Bowe is a quality player, but is it a gamble to bring him back so soon after his hand injury?
And then there’s Toby Faletau. The guy gets through so much work and he’s got a great offloading game. Both Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip tend to play a wider game, so Warren has obviously decided he needs another ‘dog’ in the backrow and has gone for Dan Lydiate. It shows the backrow quality available to him that Toby and Justin Tipuric aren’t even in the squad.
I was chatting to Paul Tito and mentioned that I thought the Lions could win the series 3-0. He then asked me how many of the Lions squad would make a World XV? I must admit that after Adam Jones I couldn’t think of too many other candidates that were way ahead in their positions even though a few might get pretty close. Then you think of Australia and the likes of Genia and the other great players they’ve got like Beale, maybe even Folau at this early stage. Once again, I think it’s going to be too close to call, but I’ll stick my neck out and say the Lions by between 1 and 5 points. I’ll be going down my local club for this one to really soak up the atmosphere. I can’t wait!
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