- Jonathan Davies ready to enter “last-chance saloon”
- “We can only focus on the players we have out there on Saturday” – Manu Tuilagi
The British and Irish Lions’ midfield has been the subject of vociferous debate this week, but Jonathan Davies and Manu Tuilagi are both confident of making an impact on the series decider against Australia in Sydney tomorrow.
Welshman Davies won a controversial selection battle to start at outside centre ahead of iconic Irish veteran Brian O’Driscoll, while England’s Tuilagi will be primed to enter the fray from the replacements’ bench in case of injury or need for added muscle.
And though the Lions are slight underdogs given their somewhat disjointed display in the final stages of last weekend’s 16-15 loss to the Wallabies, Davies highlighted the calm and coherence within the tourists’ camp.
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Indeed, the 25 year-old Llanelli Scarlet suggested that the Lions were well in tune with their game-plan.
“I’m obviously over the moon to be involved in such a massive game,” he said. “It’s a huge task and we’re looking forward to the job in hand.
“We’re going to make sure we get our forwards into the game early and use them effectively. The boys have an understanding – we’ve gelled quite well over the past six or seven weeks.
“Our standards are high – Jonny [Sexton] demands them in training, he’s a bit of a slave driver. That’s what we’ll take into Saturday. There’s a lot of pressure on everyone – it’s last-chance saloon and we have to win it.”
Despite missing a significant chunk of this trip with a shoulder problem he picked up in last month’s victory over the Queensland Reds, Tuilagi has shown some typically brawny form when given the opportunity – most notably during the mid-week clash with the Melbourne Rebels.
However, until actually hearing his name read out, he was far from sure of his involvement.
“After the game [against the Reds] I came off and I knew my tour was over, but after three or four days the physios told me the good news – that my shoulder was recovering really well. Thank God I’m still here.
“I was nervous when Jamie [Roberts] and Foxy [Davies] were named. I thought: ‘I’m out of the team here’. But when they read out my name it was just unbelievable.”
Photo: Getty Images
Turning to O’Driscoll – whom he partnered to fantastic effect in the 69-17 win Western Force – Tuilagi had some kind words, but re-iterated that the Lions would not be short of authoritative voices to steady their nerves at ANZ Stadium.
“Brian is a legend of a man and a rugby player as you all know, but we don’t select the team – that’s the decision that the coaches have made.
“I spoke to him just after the team was made and he was obviously really gutted not to be involved. But he also said that the team that has been announced is a quality one and the boys that have been selected are going to do the job.
“[Inside centre] Jamie Roberts is a massive influence on the team in terms of leadership and there are guys like [lock] Geoff Parling and [wing] Tommy Bowe, too. We can only focus on the players we have out there on Saturday.”