Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
This is today’s feature match and for good reason. This is the long-awaited moment when these two evenly-matched sides clash.
The British and Irish lions team is the only team that plays a full tour schedule of provincial and test matches in this modern era. That type of schedule was once the rule. In my opinion it is a trend that should return. I’ll elaborate another time.
But for now it’s to preview this clash. On paper and in form the ‘Lions’ look the favourite. They lost to ACT Brumbies mid-week but apart from a little blip on the radar, the test side is a different looking outfit. The one concern is the loss of two front-line prop forwards earlier in the tour. The replacements, however, have risen to the standard required.
Australia is a term of uncertainties. Against Northern Hemisphere sides last November Australia struggled. Against a team that combines 5 of those sides the Australians could well flounder. They have players in untested positions, most noticeably James O’Connor at five-eight and rugby league convert Israel Folau on the wing.
Australia had a horror run of injuries last year. Back in the lineup is Will Genia, possibly the best halfback in the world and captain James Horwill. Both players provide leadership. There are also new players brought into test rugby inthe form of Leali’fano, Mowen and Douglas. The reserve bench looks healthy with the likes of Fainga’a, Slipper, Kepu, Simmons, McCabe and Beale. Coming off the bench requires players who can add freshness and a new dimension to a teams play later in the game. In this area Australia is strong.
The Lions look a complete all-round outfit. Nowhere can I spot a weakness. Their build up has been almost perfect. The only concern is that against provincial sides (Western Force and the Country XV apart) that have been below strength they have struggled to fully convince. Last Saturday’s win against the Waratah’s was their best performance and a timely one.
Finally the two Kiwi coaches will square off in a match that will sort out their pecking order. Could one of these one day lead a New Zealand side to a World Cup win? Remember that sentence!
2001.07.14 Australia 29-23 in Sydney
2001.07.07 Australia 35-14 in Melbourne
2001.06.30 Lions 29-13 in Brisbane
1989.07.15 Lions 19-18 in Sydney
1989.07.08 Lions 19-12 in Brisbane
1989.07.01 Australia 30-12 in Sydney
GWC and IRB Rankings do not apply
15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu,
7 Michael Hooper, 6 Benjamin Mowen, 5 James Horwill, Capt. 4 Kane Douglas,
3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons,
20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Pat McCabe, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Head Coach: Robbie Deans
British and Irish Lions
15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alexander Cuthbert, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Michael Phillips, 8 James Heaslip, 7 Samuel Warburton, Capt.6 Thomas Croft, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Thomas Youngs, 1 Alexander Corbisiero.
16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Makovina Vunipola, 18 Daniel Cole, 19 Geoffrey Parling, 20 Daniel Lydiate, 21 Benjamin Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sean Maitland.
Head Coach: Warren Gatland