Deans warns of 'brutal' Lions

Wed, 01 May 2013 09:31
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Wallaby coach Robbie Deans warned of a brutal Test series against the B&I Lions, which he called "the ultimate rugby experience".

Wallaby coach Robbie Deans warned Wednesday of a brutal Test series against the British and Irish Lions, which he called "the ultimate rugby experience".

Lions and Wales coach Warren Gatland on Tuesday named a Welsh-heavy 37-man squad for the tour from June 1, skippered by Wales flank Sam Warburton.

Deans said the Six Nations champions deserved their dominant representation, with 15 players heading to Australia compared to 10 from England, nine from Ireland and just three Scots.

"I don't think there was too many surprises. They've gone back to what they know, which isn't surprising," Deans said.

"You go back two years when the Welsh [first] picked up the [Six Nations] title, everyone anticipated that the nucleus of the team would be Welsh.

"Then they hit a little bit of a flat patch but came back and responded very well in the last outing and retained the title," he added, referring to Wales' 32-3 rout of England in this year's Six Nations decider.

"Particularly given the nature of that performance, it was complete, so it's not surprising that Warren has looked very much to his own."

The Welsh contingent is the largest for the Lions in 36 years since flyhalf great Phil Bennett was the appointed captain for a losing tour of New Zealand.

Warburton becomes the youngest Welsh Lions tour captain in history, with the 24-year-old preferred ahead of England skipper Chris Robshaw who missed out along with English great Jonny Wilkinson.

With the Lions squad full of big forwards and big backs, Deans said he was preparing for a physical encounter that would be like none his team had experienced before.

"The best insight of what this series is going to be like was that final Six Nations fixture. It was brutal and it was relentless for 80 minutes," he said.

"It will be a contest that our blokes have never experienced. Some of our blokes have experienced World Cup rugby, but I tell you the ante goes up even further.

"This is the ultimate rugby experience."

Australia are due to name their squad on May 19 ahead of the Lions beginning their 10-match tour against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1. They play the first of three Tests against the Wallabies on June 22.

John Eales, the last Wallaby to lead Australia to victory over the Lions, in 2001, said he believed Gatland had picked a dynamic squad that would be highly effective.

"I think Warren Gatland is a very experienced coach who is not going to make decisions on players because of favouritism," he said.

"Now his reputation is on the line as much as the players, so he wants to pick the team that he trusts to be able to beat the Wallabies in a couple of months' time."

Eales added that the Wallabies needed to forget which country the players came from.

"I think while everyone will focus on where [the players] come from now, very quickly they'll become one team and that's what Australia has to guard against," he said.

"We're defending against one team, we're not defending against 15 Welsh, 10 Englishmen, nine Irishmen and three Scots."

AFP

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