If you believe Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” then you may well think that Warren Gatland is dangerously close to being sectioned under the mental health act after he named his Lions squad. Wales have played Australia on 13 occasions since 2006 and won only 1 of those Tests so Gatland’s reliance on 15 Welsh players in his Lions squad to tour down under could be considered, at the very least a gamble. A bigger worry is the makeup of Gatland’s coaching team, particularly the inclusion of Rob Howley as attack coach. Howley’s deficiency as an innovative attacking coach combined with the selection of just 1 creative player amongst the inside backs almost eliminates the chance of the Lions deviating from Wales’ one dimensional kicking game which has seen them on the wrong end of recent results against the Wallabies.
The exclusion of a footballing inside centre like Billy Twelevetrees, who is one of Gatland’s archetypal big backs, standing at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing almost 16 stone, is a bit of a red flag for anyone who was hoping that the Lions may try to outscore the Aussies, rather than out defend them as Wales have tried in recent times. Wales’s recent struggles have all involved losing out by small margins, largely due to an inability to score enough tries, really only Alex Cuthbert has threatened the Wallaby line so presumably he’ll be starting in the 1st Test. The lack of an unknown quantity like Elliot Daly or Christian Wade out wide, or another extremely big winger like Tim Visser for the Lions means that there’s really nothing to fear for an Australian team who love having the ball in hand more than they love defending. Unless Jonny Sexton can somehow involve all 14 other Lions players in the running game with his passing ability then just like Wales the Lions will spend a lot of time kicking the ball away to the Australian back 3.
Personally my biggest fear is that Warren Gatland is naive enough to believe that the Lions can turn up in the Wallabies back yard and beat them using dominant forwards and a high pressure defence. Theoretically this approach will work, but based on the fact that Wales’ pack is better than Australia’s and their defence is probably the best in the Northern Hemisphere the theory isn’t always backed up in practice. The second test is being refereed by Craig Joubert who singlehandedly cost Wales a Test win in Australia last summer with a performance that proves he understands next to nothing about scrummaging and struggles to maintain any offside lines at break down time. A first Test win will be imperative to either sides chance’s of a series win. Despite the concerns over the coaching staff and the lack of creativity the Lions have to endure Australia are not guaranteed to win the first Test by any means, the way their training camp works they will have not played top flight rugby for around 3 weeks leading up to the first Test so the potential for the Lions to catch them cold is a real threat. Another thing in the Lions favour is that Australia will definitely be without their skipper the Zimbabwean born David Pocock and somebody who was tipped to replace him in the back row veteran George Smith could be struggling to be back to full fitness after a knee injury. The Wallabies with also be without their first choice hooker Tatafu Polota- Nau and (as it stands right now at least) also without the star backs Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale due to behavioural issues more than injury problems.
They say a pessimist is never disappointed and that is my life motto so I’m expecting the Wallabies to out guts the Lions in a similar way to how they’ve confounded the odds to beat Wales in their last 7 attempts and win the series 2-1.