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Fri 5 Jul 2013 | 06:39

Preview: Australia v B&I Lions

Preview: Australia v B&I Lions
Fri 5 Jul 2013 | 06:39

Preview: Australia v B&I Lions


British and Irish Lions forwards coach Graham Rowntree has thrown down the gauntlet to the Wallabies ahead of Saturday's showdown, declaring: "We're ready for battle."

The Lions spent five days in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, licking their wounds after last weekend's 16-15 defeat in the second Test.

Now, Rowntree insists they're prepared for the final act and "desperate" to deliver a tour defining performance in "the biggest game of our lives".

The Lions blew a chance to clinch their first Test series in 16 years in Melbourne having won the first Test in Brisbane 23-21.

But Sydney's 84,000-capacity Olympic Stadium provides another opportunity to determine whether the 2013 team goes down in history or not.

Head coach Warren Gatland is looking to end the long wait for a first success since Martin Johnson's Lions won in South Africa in 1997.

Rowntree mentioned on Friday: "Seeing how we've trained all week, crikey we're ready for this battle.

"We've got to go out and give it everything because this is the biggest games of our lives, as players and coaches.

"We saw the reaction from Australia after they beat us last weekend. Their captain James Horwill was crying.

"They threw everything at us and beat us by a point. We didn't get our game going, we know that, and there is a load more to come from us.

"The guys are desperate to win – this is grand final rugby, the last throw of the dice with everything to play for.

"But this is the biggest one for us. These players are desperate for tomorrow [Saturday] and there is definitely one huge performance left in the tank," said Rowntree.

Irish winger Tommy Bowe insists the tourists are in no mood to let another chance slip through their fingers, saying the past three days' training have been very intense.

"There's a huge amount of emotion in the squad at the minute… we'll leave everything out on the pitch tomorrow," Rowntree added.

The Lions shocked the rugby world by dropping Brian O'Driscoll for the first time in his career as they made six changes from last week.

Although O'Driscoll is on the sidelines, along with the injured 2009 skipper Paul O'Connell and current tour skipper Sam Warburton, all three are still making a contribution, Rowntree said.

"Brian has been exemplary as the true professional he is…. we move on and Brian's been fine with that. He's been leading the group still and helping the lads prepare.

"Paul and Sam have spoken in most meetings and that's why we wanted them around. But [stand-in captain] Alun Wyn Jones has led the team very well and he has that respect among the players."

Rowntree admitted he was surprised at the recall of veteran Wallaby flank George Smith, who wins his 111th cap four years after his last one.

Smith was in the Australian side that beat the Lions 2-1 in 2001.

"I'm surprised by that because he's been out for a long time. It will be interesting to see his match fitness," Rowntree said.

Players to watch:

For Australia: Look no further than No.7 George Smith. Returning from a four year Test sabbatical and coming into one of the biggest Test matches in Australia since the 2003 World Cup final. Christian Leali'ifano was huge for Australia last week and showed experience far greater than his two Test matches in the second Test against the Lions. The front row for the Wallabies have been really good throughout the series but the Lions have improved as the series has grown and the match-up in the front row will be huge.

B&I Lions: The spotlight will be on Jamie Roberts as he returns to the starting XV after not being involved since the win over the Waratahs. Will he be able to get into the Test match quick enough? Jonathan Sexton has been really good and has pulled the strings well for the Lions but he is going to have to give the Lions something a little bit more this week. Alex Corbisiero gave Benn Alexander a tough time in the first Test and he will need to do more in this Test if they are going to win the series.

Head to head: The openside flank battle will be interesting to watch. Both Sean O'Brien and George Smith are getting their first Test starts of the series and both players are going to be playing to the ball for the full 80 minutes. Genia against Phillips will be an exciting duel. Genia had the number on Mike Phillips in the first Test but the Welshman is a lot better than his form in that first Test suggests.

Recent results:
2013: Australia won 16-15, Melbourne
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

Prediction: One-all in the series heading to Sydney means it could not be set-up any better than this. Two absolute nail-biters preceed this one and it could go either way. Coming off a great win in Melbourne and being at home means that it would be tough to bet against the Wallabies. The Lions have dropped Brian O'Driscoll and have 10 Welshmen in the starting XV but it is going to be another battle of the kickers. The Lions to win the Test and the series by 3-5 points.

The teams:

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (captain), 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 Ben McCalman, 21 Michael Hooper, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Jesse Mogg.

British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Manu Tuilagi.

Date: Saturday July 6
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20.00 AEST (10.00 GMT, 11.00 UK & Ireland time)
Expected weather: Great weather expected for the final Test of the series. Clear, with  a low of 7°C and a high of 18°C.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Craig Joubert (South Africa)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

AFP & Rugby365

PV: 13
Preview: Australia V B&i Lions - Australia | Rugby365