Lions go for Wales fac­tor

Coach banks on Taffy for­mula for vi­tal Test

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - Syd­ney line-ups

THE BRI­TISH and Ir­ish Lions are bank­ing on a suc­cess­ful Welsh for­mula as they strive to pull off their first Test se­ries win in 16 years against the Wal­la­bies to­day.

With the se­ries tied at 1-1 af­ter two pul­sat­ing en­coun­ters, head coach War­ren Gat­land has taken the con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion to drop Ir­ish le­gend Brian O’Driscoll and re­unite crack cen­tre pair Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts among a record­e­qualling 10-strong Welsh rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the start­ing side.

But while O’Driscoll, 34, was dumped from a side he was ex­pected to cap­tain, in a con­trast­ing move Aus­tralia have re­called Ge­orge Smith, a vet­eran with 110 Test caps af­ter four years in the in­ter­na­tional wilder­ness.

Davies and Roberts are among a size­able con­tin­gent of Welsh play­ers from this year’s Six Na­tions cham­pi­onship-win­ning team in the Syd­ney start­ing line-up for the tourists, with an 11th on the bench, in a team cap­tained by Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones for the first time.

The last time Wales had 10 men in a Lions team was the first Test against Aus­tralia in Bris­bane in 1950, which the Lions won 19-6.

Aus­tralia coach Rob­bie Deans be­lieves the Wal­la­bies have saved their best for last fol­low­ing a come­from-be­hind 16-15 win over the Lions in last week­end’s gru­elling sec­ond Test in Melbourne to level the se­ries af­ter the tourists won the Bris­bane opener 23-21.

He has gam­bled by se­lect­ing 32year-old open­side flanker Smith , with­out a match for six weeks fol­low­ing a ham­string in­jury, and rel­e­gat­ing No 7 Michael Hooper to the re­place­ments bench for the Wal­la­bies’ most im­por­tant match since the 2003 World Cup fi­nal with Eng­land.

The Kiwi is bank­ing on Smith’s ex­pe­ri­ence and com­po­sure un­der fire to push the Wal­la­bies over the line. Aus­tralia: Kurt­ley Beale; Is­rael Fo­lau, Adam Ash­ley- Cooper, Chris­tian Leali­ifano, Joe To­mane; James O'Con­nor, Will Ge­nia; Wy­cliff Palu, Ge­orge Smith, Ben Mowen; James Hor­will (capt), Kane Dou­glas; Ben Alexan­der, Stephen Moore, Benn Robin­son. Re­place­ments: Saia Fain­gaa, James Slip­per, Sekope Kepu, Rob Sim­mons, Ben McCal­man, Michael Hooper, Nick Phipps, Jesse Mogg. Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions: Leigh Half­penny; Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Ge­orge North; Jonathan Sex­ton, Mike Phillips; Toby Fale­tau, Sean O'Brien, Dan Ly­di­ate; Ge­off Par­ling, Alun Wyn Jones (capt); Adam Jones, Richard Hib­bard, Alex Cor­bisiero. Re­place­ments: Tom Youngs, Mako Vu­nipola, Dan Cole, Richie Gray, Justin Tipuric, Conor Mur­ray, Owen Far­rell, Manu Tuilagi Ref­eree: Ro­main Poite (France) TV: Live on Su­perS­port1 at noon

“This will be our best per­for­mance, with­out a doubt. I think that’s been com­ing,” Deans said.

“If you look at the sec­ond Test, we started to get some rhythm. Com­bi­na­tions started to kick in. The Lions will in­tend to deny us that mo­men­tum, but ei­ther way this will be our best per­for­mance.

“We feel that the com­bi­na­tion of ex­pe­ri­ence and fresh legs that Ge­orge brings is the right way to go. His ex­per­tise in the con­tact zone, where tim­ing, judg­ment and phys­i­cal­ity is ev­ery­thing, is go­ing to be crit­i­cal.”

New Zealan­der Gat­land, who has taken a break from his role as Wales head coach to lead the Lions, made five changes to a win­ning side be­tween the first and sec­ond Tests and a fur­ther six changes af­ter los­ing last week­end.

Apart from O’Driscoll, who has 133 in­ter­na­tional caps, Lions scrumhalf Ben Youngs, his brother and hooker Tom Youngs, prop Mako Vu­nipola, and No 8 Jamie Heaslip have all been dropped, while skip­per Sam War­bur­ton is out with a ham- string in­jury.

Gat­land brought back the fita­gain trio of Roberts, scrum-half Mike Phillips and prop Alex Cor­bisiero, while Wales No 8 Toby Fale­tau will win his first Lions cap in a back row that sees Sean O’Brien move off the bench to claim War­bur­ton’s spot.

“It all comes down to Satur­day -the win­ner takes all. We know we can leave noth­ing in the tank and that only a com­plete per­for­mance will get us across the line,” said Gat­land.

“Pick­ing this team was not easy and ul­ti­mately, with sev­eral play­ers avail­able af­ter re­cov­er­ing from in­jury, the head over­ruled the heart in many se­lec­tion de­ci­sions.

“Brian O’Driscoll is a great player and has had a won­der­ful ca­reer but for the fi­nal Test we just felt Jamie Roberts’s pres­ence of­fered us some­thing more.”

Gat­land will be look­ing to seek early as­cen­dancy through his for- wards and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for the big ball-car­ri­ers while test­ing out Aus­tralia’s backs with high kicks.

But scrum-half Will Ge­nia, Is­rael Fo­lau, Adam Ash­ley-Cooper, Kurt­ley Beale and Chris­tian Leali­ifano have been in great form and Aus­tralia’s for­wards have held their own in the set piece.

French ref­eree Ro­main Poite’s in­ter­pre­ta­tions at the scrum and break­down could play a big part in the fi­nal out­come. – Sapa-AFP

Gallo Im­ages

SCREAM IF YOU’RE WIN­NING: Ge­orge North of the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions, left, and Aus­tralia cap­tain James Hor­will shout with joy af­ter the first and sec­ond Tests re­spec­tively.

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