Preview: Australia v B&I Lions
The British and Irish Lions are poised to secure their first series in 16 years while the Wallabies must win Saturday's pivotal second Test in Melbourne.
The British and Irish Lions are poised to secure their first series in 16 years while the Wallabies have their backs to the wall and must win Saturday's pivotal second Test in Melbourne.
Warren Gatland's Lions go in with the edge after clinging on to a 23-21 victory in last week's Brisbane Test when Kurtley Beale missed a kickable penalty in the final minute.
The Lions last won a series in South Africa in 1997 and the coach has shaken up a winning side in a bid to wrap up the series ahead of the July 6 final Test in Sydney.
Gatland has made five changes, while Australia counterpart Robbie Deans has made two enforced changes and kept faith in James O'Connor at flyhalf despite his difficult night in the first Test defeat.
Gatland was forced to switch two of his tight five because of injuries with England's Mako Vunipola and Geoff Parling promoted to take the places of Alex Corbisiero in the front row and lock Paul O'Connell.
The coach has also added Wales flanker Dan Lydiate to the loose forwards in place of Tom Croft, while Ben Youngs replaces experienced scrumhalf Mike Phillips, who has a knee injury.
Tom and Ben Youngs will become the first brothers to start together in a Test for the Lions since Scotland's Gavin and Scott Hastings in the third Test of the 1989 series against the Wallabies.
Ireland's Tommy Bowe returns on the right wing for Brisbane try scorer Alex Cuthbert after making a three-week recovery from a broken hand that required surgery.
Gatland said: "One or two changes were forced on us, and we've got a couple of players coming back from injury, but it just shows how strong the squad is and that we have a huge amount of competition.
"It is about picking the best team to do a job for us. We can win this series by winning on Saturday and that's where our whole focus needs to be. Everything for us is about Saturday night," the coach mentioned.
Deans, whose Wallabies' coaching future may hinge on the series outcome, brought in Beale for concussed Berrick Barnes at fullback and Joe Tomane for sidelined winger Digby Ioane.
But Deans points to the availability of Christian Lealiifano as key for his side's chances after the Brumbies' inside centre was knocked out in the opening tackle of last week's Test and was carried off.
The Wallabies also had further disruption with Barnes and Pat McCabe stretchered off and injuries to Adam Ashley-Cooper and Ioane.
"It was a pretty challenging circumstance last week. It's not great to get injured in your first outing. Christian [Lealiifano] will get the chance to experience a lot more this week and we'll get the benefit of that.
"I thought the boys did incredibly well under the circumstances, particularly as it was a domino effect that went from there to the extent where we had to play a forward in the backline. So for the team to work their way through and put themselves in the position to be able to win that game was remarkable.
"Clearly this week we've had the benefit of some more prep and hopefully we'll have a lit bit more fluency in our game and Christian will be a big part of that," Deans said.
On the last two tours to Australia, in 1989 and 2001, the side that has won the first Test has gone on to lose the series. Lions captain Sam Warburton does not want history to repeat itself.
"The talk around the players has been making sure we finish it this weekend," Warburton said.
"There has been no complacency thinking that we've got a week off because there is another opportunity next week.
"Momentum would completely swing if Australia won. They'd be going into another home game to finish after winning a game," added Deans.
Players to watch:
For Australia: A fairly new-look back three for the Wallabies could be a key to opening up the Lions defence. Folau was incredible on debut and Kurtely Beale gets his first start of the series after he made a massive difference off the bench last week. Joe Tomane has been on form for the Brumbies this year but a Lions series is a completely different story. Christian Lealiifano will be responsible for the goal-kicking and that, arguably, was the difference in the first Test.
B&I Lions: Halfpenny will be vital once again for the Lions. He has kicked beautifully throughout the series and Saturdays Test will be no different. Ben Youngs has been called in at the expense of Mike Phillips and will want to prove a point against Will Genia. Mako Vunipola has been one of the better props for the Lions this tour and replaces Alex Corbisiero and he will want to retain that No.1 jersey.
Head to head: The scrumhalf battle will be the difference in this Test. Genia was on top for the entire game but the disruptions to the Australia side meant that his influence was snubbed out but if Ben Youngs can get on top of the Wallaby scrumhalf then that could be the difference. Adam Jones and Benn Robinson renew their rivalry from the first Test and the scrum is going to be vital in this Test with penalties being the order of the day in such a tight series.
2013: B&I Lions won 23-21, Brisbane
2001: Australia won 29-23, Sydney
2001: Australia won 35-14, Melbourne
2001: B&I Lions won 29-13, Brisbane
1989: B&I Lions won 19-18, Sydney
1989: B&I Lions won 19-12, Brisbane
1989: Australia won 30-12, Sydney
1966: B&I Lions won 31-0, Brisbane
1966: B&I Lions won 11-8, Sydney
1959: B&I Lions won 24-3, Sydney
Prediction: It will be another incredibly tight Test match and expect this game to be closer than the last. With all of the injuries sustained by the Wallabies in the first Test, getting within two points was a great achievement. A number of missed kicks means that the Lions wormed their way home. With a fit Christian Lealiifano to kick at goal the Wallabies will be a lot more dangerous. The Wallabies have their backs to the wall and need the win - Australia to win by less than five.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Jesse Mogg.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Makovina Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Sean O'Brien, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Alex Cuthbert.
Date: Saturday, June 29
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Kick-off: 20.05 AEST (11.05 UK & Ireland time; 10.05 GMT)
Expected weather: Mostly clear evening in Melbourne with a minimum of 7°C and a maximum of 15°C. The roof will be closed so rain will not be a factor.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referee s : Chris Pollock (Ne w Zealand), Romain Poite (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
AFP & Rugby365