British & Irish Lions 2013: Five lessons from emphatic 10-try victory
British & Irish Lions 2013: Oisín Gregorian looks at the lessons learned against Combined New South Wales-Queensland Country
Lions Test XV remains far from finalised
Let’s face it; a match against a team of the Combined Country’s calibre was always going to be used to experiment. Through this, Warren Gatland’s game of mixing and matching his match XVs continued for the fourth game running, but expect a clearer indication of the coach’s plan for the first Test come the weekend against the Waratahs. Saturday’s clash will mark the crucial one-week warning for all concerned in the camp and giving a telling insight into who is in the head coach’s thoughts.
Gatland continues to keep his combinations close to his chest
“Smoke-screening” is perhaps the best phrase to describe Gatland’s strategy when it comes to combinations for the first Test on 22 June. The Lions are four games in but there is no clear indication of who will partner who in the Test XV, from prop to wing. Gatland’s aforementioned game of mix-and-match has played an undoubted part in this, but with time running out for players to forge any kind of partnership for the first Test, could this particular strategy do more harm than good? It could eventually force the head coach into simply selecting Welsh combinations that he knows and trusts in key positions such as the back row and three.
Hogg is a more than adequate emergency option at No10
Gatland’s initial selection of two natural fly-halves raised eyebrows given that previous tours have tended to go with at least three. Against the Combined Country, the coach gave both Jonny Sexton and Owen Farrell a much-needed break with the first Test looming. Step forward Scotland’s Stuart Hogg, a full-back by trade with limited professional experience at No10. Forget the quality of the opposition, Hogg’s overall performance against the Country could well give the Test selectors a backline utility player to occupy the bench come 22 June.
Minority Scots could still have an influencing impact
For Scotland’s touring party of four within the 37-man squad, quality over quantity could have a final say for a country that has generally lacked in numbers in previous tours. In the second row, Richie Gray has put behind a testing season and has firmly put his hand up for the number four jersey while the likes of Stuart Hogg, Ryan Grant and Sean Maitland could be those key go-to guys should inevitable injuries have their say between now and the end of the series.
Lineout remains one of the squad’s weaker spots
If there is any area of the Lions’ game plan that Wallabies coach Robbie Deans could be imploring his players to focus on for the first Test, it will most certainly be the lineout. For the fourth game running, the more obvious area for concern was that of the cheap ball being lost from lineouts that should have been simple bread and butter, especially considering some of the opposition that has been put out against them. A much-improved performance both in terms of throwing, driving and production off the top will be essential against the Waratahs in order to get any kind of positive momentum.