British & Irish Lions 2013: Five talking points from Brumbies loss
British & Irish Lions 2013: Oisin Gregorian looks at the talking points from the tourists' 14-12 loss to ACT Brumbies
Williams, Gatland’s last chance saloon
The undoubted story of the week was Shane Williams, but it ultimately concluded in an unsurprisingly quiet performance. The Welsh wizard tried his best to roll back the years on early on with that all too known sidestep but in reality, his lack of top level rugby over the last two years was all too telling in what was, an isolated performance. What must not be forgotten here is that Williams was called up purely as cover to play in midweek games like this, and will only be used in the Tests should the injury Gods curse Gatland and his coaching staff from here on in.
Best’s fairy tale could become one of irrelevance
Neutrals and fans felt a sense of justice at the end of May on hearing of Rory Best’s return to the fold in light of Dylan Hartley’s ban. The hooker’s return was a fairy tale; a fairy tale that was to hopefully culminate in the Ulster captain lining out in Brisbane on 22 June. Fast forward three short weeks, and the veteran hooker now looks as far from the Test team as he’s ever been, thanks solely in part to some irregular throwing at the lineout, which has plagued him since the turn of the year. Come the tests, the Lions must not allow the Wallabies to dominate at the lineout and, on current form, Best will do incredibly well between now and the end of the series to force his way back in.
Inexperience in back-up members could prove costly
Despite boasting a squad of 22 that looked both talented and capable on paper this morning, it was a side that regrettably for the coaching staff was utterly dominated in nearly all departments by the committed and determined Brumbies. Gatland’s injury back-ups have rightfully been questioned due to the collective experience of those called up. Such inexperience in key positions such as the halfbacks and midfield was on show for the whole of Australia to see, and should some of these players end up playing a key role in the Tests, the Wallabies will be relishing their chances.
Gatland will pray for no key injuries for the opening two Tests
As mentioned above, an argument can be made regarding the overall depth of this Lions squad – and how many of Gatland’s reserves in key areas are perhaps weaker than on previous tours. With this in mind, the coach will be desperate to avoid any further injuries to his first-choice Test squad come the final whistle this Saturday. Though no Lions coach fancies it, a first Test loss is by no means the end of the world and barring any major injuries, the second Test is always there to salvage the series. But lose next Saturday and lose with injuries added to an ever-growing list, then the task to salvage will become evidently harder.
Feeding the Wallabies poor clearances will be fatal
We’ve seen it all before; that quick-fire counter-attack that’s synonymous with the southern hemisphere. In Canberra, the counter-attacks continued to batter the Lions defence, with no thanks to some weak clearing from hand. However, these kind of attacks can be stemmed and in both Jonathan Sexton and Mike Phillips, Gatland will hope his first-choice half-backs won’t give the Wallabies these avoidable half chances from hand on Saturday.