Preview: Waratahs v B&I Lions
B&I Lions back row forward Jamie Heaslip said he expects "hard nut" coach Michael Cheika will have the Waratahs fired up for Saturday's showdown.
British and Irish Lions back row forward Jamie Heaslip said he expects "hard nut" coach Michael Cheika will have the Waratahs fired up for Saturday's showdown with the unbeaten tourists.
Heaslip bases his belief on the time he played under Cheika for Irish side Leinster.
The Lions No.8 credits the Australian with transforming the provincial side into a European Cup-winning team and knows what to expect as his team put their four-game unbeaten run on the line against the below-strength Waratahs.
"He always kept you under the pump. He demanded the best from players," the Irishman told reporters.
"He was a hard nut, some would say a madman at times.
"He was a fiery character, but I had a lot of time for Cheiks.
"I was really blessed because he was a back-row player and I was just lucky because he would kind of see the game as I would see it."
Heaslip said he has no doubts Cheika would have spent this week firing up his Waratahs - missing 11 internationals due to Wallaby camp commitments and injuries - in a bid to steel them for the challenges of taking on the Lions.
"Knowing Cheiks, he's definitely sticking it to the guys who are there and motivating them, that this is their chance because those guys aren't around," he said.
"He would have made sure every box was ticked. He's a great coach and these guys are going to be well drilled and they're going to be a hard team with Cheika calling the shots.
"He's really, really passionate about his rugby and he wants people to go 100 percent flat out, like he does. He doesn't like people holding back. He doesn't like people hiding."
But Cheika has ruled out any repeat of a violence-scarred 2001 confrontation when the Waratahs last took on the Lions.
The Waratahs' former flyhalf Duncan McRae is infamously remembered for punching Lions counterpart Ronan O'Gara 11 times while the Irishman was on the ground.
O'Gara subsequently had eight stitches put in a facial wound, while McRae received a seven-week ban.
"I think those days have gone," Cheika said.
"Even back then, it was over the top.
"But physicality can occur in lots of ways - rucks, scrums and the contacts have got to be big from our lads.
"We have to be big. We can't hope just to contain them, and we can't hold anything back. If we have that mentality over 80 minutes, we might put a bit of a dent in their tank.
"We can't be looking for a glorious defeat. As a player, you want to say that you played in an international-level fixture and you made something of it.
"Anything in red that moves we'll have a go at it."
The rivalry between NSW and Great Britain dates back 125 years to the teams' first meeting at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 2 June, 1888 - when NSW lost 2-18.
Since then, the sides have met a total of 20 times, with the NSW Waratahs recording four victories and one draw.
In their last encounter on June 23, 2001 at the Sydney Football Stadium (now called Allianz Stadium), NSW lost 24-41.
The Waratahs last beat the Lions 18-14 at the Sydney Sports Ground in 1959.
Following the announcement that Lions coach Warren Gatland had picked a strong side, led by tour captain Sam Warburton, Cheika added: "We're playing against a team with a massive artillery. Obviously I'd like to have all our international players available.
"We've been all about trying to develop a winning attitude, no matter who's in the jersey.
"The odds are against us, massively, but we'll try and buck them.
"As long as there's a chance, we'll take it. We need to play our game and do it as best we can and see what happens."
Players to watch:
For the Waratahs: He has been a star performer in Super Rugby, now wing Cam Crawford gets a chance against an international team to show he is Wallaby material. Flyhalf Bernard Foley has been good, albeit a bit erratic at times, but along with scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin will need to pull the tactical strings. Dave Dennis, as captain, will need to lead from the front, but the tight five are the engine room that could rive them to victory.
For the British and Irish Lions: With coach Warren Gatland leaving the race for Test places open you could look at all 23 in the matchday squad. However, the most competitive positions are flyhalf and loose forward - with Jonathan Sexton and tour captain Sam Warburton among those with most to gain ... or lose. Injuries have also left a gaping hole in the front row and Mako Vunipola could steal a march on his rivals at loosehead prop.
Head to head: There will be an interesting midfield battle - Rob Horne and Tom Carter (Waratahs), two abrasive characters, up against the more agile Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts (B&I Lions). Dave Dennis (Waratahs) against Jamie Heaslip (B&I Lions) will be worth watching, but the decisive battle could be in the set pieces - with Waratahs locks Ollie Atkins and Will Skelton having their work cut out against veterans Paul O'Connell and Alun Wyn Jones (B&I Lions), while the front rows of Paddy Ryan, John Ulugia and Jeremy Tilse (Waratahs) against Adam Jones, Tom Youngs and Mako Vunipola (B&I Lions) will be an intriguing contest.
2001: British & Irish Lions won 41-24, Sydney
1989: British & Irish Lions won 23-21, Sydney
1971: British & Irish Lions won 14-12, Sydney
1966: British & Irish Lions and Waratahs drew 6-all, Sydney
1959: Waratahs won 18-14, Sydney
1950: British & Irish Lions won 22-6, Sydney
1950: Waratahs won 17-12, Sydney
1930: British & Irish Lions won 29-10, Sydney
1930: Waratahs won 28-3, Sydney
1908: British & Irish Lions won 3-0, Sydney
1908: British & Irish Lions won 8-0, Sydney
Prediction: The Waratahs WILL be fired up and might even keep it close for an hour. However, the hosts are underpowered and also don't have the experience of the B&I Lions, who have been on tour for two weeks now. We feel the B&I Lions will edge clear in the final quarter and win by 10 to 15 points.
Waratahs: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Jeremy Tilse.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Richard Aho, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 AJ Gilbert, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Tom Kingston.
British & Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Rob Kearney.
Date: Saturday, 15 June
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.30 (08.30 UK & Ireland time; 09.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Morning clouds, mild and breezy, but only a very slim chance of any precipitation. High of 19°C and a low of 9°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
AFP & rugby365