British & Irish Lions 2013

'Great call' in resting Lions

Tue, 18 Jun 2013 13:22
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Strangely it is our backs who are struggling
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The Lions have defended their decision to rest a number of their first choice players during their 14-12 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra on Tuesday.

The Lions fielded their weakest side of the tour against the strongest Australian Super Rugby franchise which meant that it was always going to be a tough ask. Having three players that only joined the squad in the past two days and one that arrived a few days before that did not help their cause.

A fullback at flyhalf, two centres and a wing on debut and another wing that arrived on Monday means that there was absolutely not continuity amongst the back division going into the game against, arguably, one of the most tactically astute coaches in world rugby - Jake White.

Lions tour manager Andy Irvine defended coach Warren Gatland's decision and told lionsrugby.com: "The coaches made a great call in trying to preserve the players for Saturday, so that we have a fresh team with a bit of luck."

The Lions have been left depleted hugely in the backline during this tour which is strange according to the former Scotland fullback Irvine.

"It is an incredibly physical game now, even more so than in 2009, but strangely it is our backs who are struggling.

"And that's despite the fact they've won the physical battle in every game on tour and have been wonderful in their bravery, defence and taking the game to the opposition," he added.

Irvine, a veteran of 42 Lions matches himself, still believes that despite the injuries they are more than up for the task at hand and that the influence of the older players on the younger ones is something that is vital in their preparation for the first Test.

"There is a lot of character in this team and there is a great combination of youth and experience. The older players are really showing what experience counts for by helping the younger ones, who are bubbling with enthusiasm.

"There is a great mix and team spirit and Sam Warburton is doing a great job as captain.

"The likes of Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, Jamie Heaslip, Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones are all contributing and they are all working together," Irvine said.

The decision to rest a number of players for this game seems to slightly mirror the tactics of Clive Woodward in 2005 who basically selected two squads which proved to be much more of a hindrance than a help in the end.

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