British & Irish Lions 2013: Four lessons as tourists win first Test
British & Irish Lions 2013: Oisin Gregorian takes a look at four of the talking points from the tourists' 23-21 victory over Australia
First blood Lions but still a mountain to climb
There was a notable air of relief on the face of each and every British and Irish Lion at the end of the first test. Lady luck smiled on them on many instances, and they knew it. Every Lions series centres on the second Test, and in Melbourne next week, these Wallabies will regroup to try and level a series they feel they should be leading. What’s worrying for the Lions is that despite four in-game injuries, which forced coach Robbie Deans into changing his game plan on each occasion, the Wallabies only lost this game by a whisker. Should the Aussies take this match to a third Test in Sydney, they must only look to the bench for fresh blood, not for injury. A fascinating 80 minutes a week from now awaits.
A fortuitous win which could underwhelm the series
Kurtley Beale’s last-minute slip was cruel on the man. Whilst the majority of Lions fans in the Suncorp rejoiced, some however, will know that this first Test win was a fortuitous one for Warren Gatland and his Lions. Despite all that was thrown at them in the face of inconsistent judgement from referee Chris Pollock and the injuries in between, the Wallabies never let the Lions out of their sight. Should some of the injuries not heal in time for the next Test, we could be facing a situation in which the Lions will line out against a significantly weakened Wallaby outfit. Should the tourists end up winning the series as a whole due to luck and injuries sustained on their opponents’ part, this could well end up as a fortuitous Test series victory – not that the vast majority of fans will care however.
Australia prove warm-up matches are needed
A lot has been made of the Lions’ itinerary, and it has mostly been negative. However, it can be argued that thanks to a selection of often competitive match ups against some of Australia’s best rugby clubs, the Lions were physically and mentally more prepared than their counterparts – regardless of the amount of training and togetherness that was constantly noted by the Australian camp and its media. Christian Leali’ifano’s first-minute concussion was cruel on the lad, but there was an incline that it was certainly an avoidable injury had the Wallabies had just that little bit of extra training in the form of proper rugby matches. The same could also be said of the other injuries sustained.
Key Welsh selections justify themselves
When Warren Gatland was chosen to lead the Lions in 2013, early assumptions were that he was going to bring a chunk of the players he knew and trusted from the Welsh set-up. This assumption rang true in the form of 13 originally selected Welsh players on the back of another successful Six Nations campaign, and once again in Gatland’s first Test team. However, few can complain of the result come the first Test’s final whistle. Adam Jones underlined his presence in the scrum; Alun-Wyn Jones and Paul O’Connell have a partnership that would make most national sides; Sam Warburton upset the Wallaby breakdown impressively – while the wing pairing of George North and Alex Cuthbert lit up the Suncorp stadium, silencing the many Australian fans who often dismiss northern hemisphere rugby in terms of its supposed lack of attacking flair. Without doubt, the Welsh sunflower will be waved proudly for the next week.
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