Lions sniff rare series victory in Melbourne

British and Irish Lions rugby team players (L-R) Richard Hibbard, Tommy Bowe, Richie Gray and Ian Evans put their boots on before the start of a training session in Melbourne June 27, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Mindful of a wounded Australia backlash but intoxicated by the whiff of a rare series victory, the British and Irish Lions will aim to ramp up the intensity in Saturday's crunch second test in Melbourne even as both sides recover from the bruising opener.

The Lions stumbled over the line at a heaving Lang Park for Saturday's heart-stopping 23-21 win, aided by the wayward boot of Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale, that exacted a huge physical toll on both sides.

Now another 80 minutes of gut-busting punishment looms under the closed roof of Docklands Stadium where coach Warren Gatland has demanded the tourists finish the job and win their first series since 1997.

"This is a do-or-die match for Australia. It's going to be a real battle out there," the New Zealander told reporters.

"We can win this series by winning on Saturday, that's what our whole focus needs to be. The last thing we want to do is think about going and being 1-1 and having to go and play another game in Sydney."

Australia's backline was torn asunder in the Brisbane thriller, with three taken from the ground by stretcher, but the hosts showed enormous grit to claw their way back.

A business-as-usual attitude has pervaded the Wallabies camp, with the coaching staff re-assembling another backline dripping with glittering talent.

Robbie Deans may well be coaching for his job at Docklands Stadium, and again at Sydney should the Wallabies survive, but remains as unfazed as ever, having long stared down the axe.

"I thought the boys did incredibly well under the circumstances (last week), particularly as it was a domino effect that went from there to the extent where we had to play a forward in the backline," he told reporters.

"Clearly this week we've had the benefit of some more preparation and hopefully we'll have a lit bit more fluency in our game."

Australia head into game two with history as inspiration, having come back from a match down to overhaul the Lions in 2001 and 1989.

They will be mindful that the John Eales-captained side dropped the opener in Brisbane but levelled the 2001 series at the same venue before closing it out in Sydney.

Their preparations have not been ideal, however, with off-field distractions caused by three of other their backs.

Winger Digby Ioane was ruled out of the series with a shoulder injury on Monday but not before news broke that a warrant had been issued for his arrest for missing a court appearance related to an assault charge.

Beale and flyhalf James O'Connor, who struggled in the first match, were then photographed at a fast food restaurant at nearly four in the morning following the Lions' tour match win over the Melbourne Rebels.

Although admonishing the pair, Deans has granted them a chance to make amends, leaving O'Connor in the pivotal position and promoting Beale to fullback in place of the injured Berrick Barnes.

With dual international Israel Folau, who scored two tries in a stunning test debut four months after playing his first senior game, on the other wing, speedy ACT Brumbies back Joe Tomane completes a dangerous back three.


Deans has been buoyed by the ever-reliable centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, who underlined his reputation as Australia's 'Mr. Indestructible' by coming back from a shoulder injury.

Christian Lealiifano gets another chance starting at inside centre, having experienced less than a minute of game-time in his test debut after being knocked out cold.

Deans has kept the faith in the forward pack that won a late scrum penalty that could have won Australia the game but for Beale's missed kick, ignoring the temptation to add veteran flanker George Smith into the match-day 23.

Gatland, who lost lock and former captain Paul O'Connell to a broken arm in the first test and prop Alex Corbisiero to a calf injury, sprang a surprise by making an additional three changes in the starting side to the two forced by injury.

Hulking Welsh winger Alex Cuthbert might consider himself unlucky to be dropped to the bench after scoring a try in Brisbane, but makes way for Irishman Tommy Bowe who made a quick recovery from a broken hand.

Experienced scrumhalf Mike Phillips has been dropped for the second test with a sore knee following Brisbane, with Ben Youngs starting and Conor Murray taking the reserve spot.

Welsh flanker Dan Lydiate, who led the midweek Lions to an easy win over the Rebels on Tuesday, was rewarded with the starting blindside position, while England's Tom Croft drops to the bench. Loosehead Mako Vunipola comes in for Corbisiero.

"We've decided to add a bit more physicality to our side up front and Dan brings that, and then we've got the explosiveness off the bench with Tom Croft and Sean O'Brien can give us that as well," Gatland said.

"It just shows how strong the squad is. It just shows that we've got a huge amount of competition in the team."


Lions - 15-Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), 14-Tommy Bowe (Ireland), 13-Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland), 12-Jonathan Davies (Wales), 11-George North (Wales), 10-Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), 9-Ben Youngs (England, 8-Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), 7-Sam Warburton (Wales, captain), 6-Dan Lydiate (Wales), 5-Geoff Parling (England), 4-Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), 3-Adam Jones (Wales), 2-Tom Youngs (England), 1-Mako Vunipola (England).

Replacements - 16-Richard Hibbard (Wales), 17-Ryan Grant (Scotland), 18-Dan Cole (England), 19-Tom Croft (England), 20-Sean O'Brien (Ireland), 21-Conor Murray (Ireland), 22-Owen Farrell (England), 23-Alex Cuthbert (Wales)

Wallabies - 15-Kurtley Beale, 14-Israel Folau, 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12-Christian Leali'ifano, 11-Joe Tomane, 10-James O'Connor, 9-Will Genia, 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Ben Mowen, 5-James Horwill (captain), 4-Kane Douglas, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-Benn Robinson

Replacements: 16-Saia Fainga'a, 17-James Slipper, 18-Sekope Kepu, 19-Rob Simmons, 20-Liam Gill, 21-Nick Phipps, 22-Rob Horne, 23-Jesse Mogg.

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Stories You'll Enjoy