- Rowntree insists there is “loads more” to come from the Lions
- “We’ll leave everything out on the pitch tomorrow” – Tommy Bowe
British and Irish Lions forwards coach Graham Rowntree believes his pack’s tussle against the Australian eight at ANZ Stadium tomorrow will decide the destination of the Tom Richards Trophy.
With Alex Corbisiero, Richard Hibbard, Sean O’Brien and Toby Faletau coming into the starting side as part of a drastic overhaul to the team that lost 16-15 in Melbourne, the Lions have placed huge emphasis on a sturdy set-piece and burly ball-carrying options.
Rowntree also highlighted the need for composure and structure from Alun-Wyn Jones’ men, given that the tourists have only managed to top seven phases of possession twice over the two Tests so far.
However, he acknowledged that such continuity would not be easy, especially after Robbie Deans opted to include six forwards among his replacements.
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“You’ve got to have a good pack regardless of who you are playing against,” Rowntree explained. “From them picking a six-two bench, it’s pretty evident how they want to take us on and nullify what we are doing.
“We’ve picked the appropriate pack for this game given form and injuries and we’ve got a strong bench to back that up as well.
“Australia threw everything at us in [the second Test] game – you saw that from the reaction of their captain, [James] Horwill. He was crying afterwards.
“But we really didn’t get our game going. There’s loads more to come from us and the guys are desperate to win. This is grand final rugby, the last throw of the dice with it all to play for.
“It hasn’t all come together for us yet – there were elements of it in the first Test, but in the second we just didn’t string things together. That is what we must do tomorrow, on top of doing the basics very well.”
French official Romain Poite takes the whistle tomorrow – becoming the first northern hemisphere referee of the series following New Zealander Chris Pollock and Craig Joubert of South Africa.
And though Poite has sent eight players to the sin-bin in his previous seven Tests, Hibbard suggested his appointment could help the Lions at scrum-time.
“Most northern hemisphere referees actually want to referee aspects of the scrum and reward the dominant team,” added the Wales hooker, whom Warren Gatland has preferred to Englishman Tom Youngs with the set-piece in mind.
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“If we can get on the front foot there, I’m sure he’ll be more likely to give us penalties.”
While Gatland’s forwards will lay the foundations for the pursuit of a first series win in 16 years, his backs can also play a significant role by taking the attack to the Wallabies, both in broken play and from strike moves – something Ireland wing Tommy Bowe was keen to point out.
“Last week we did so much defending and we were on the back foot an awful lot – when we had it, we kicked it away and even when we regained it, we were making unforced errors.
“I think this week, if we play a bit of rugby, we can do some damage – certainly with the sort of players in this team. There are huge ball-carriers there, so we need to keep battering over the top of the Aussies.”
Finishing with glance back to the brutal disappointment of last weekend’s defeat to a late Adam Ashley-Cooper score, Bowe gave an insight into how much this match means to the Lions.
“There’s a huge amount of emotion in the squad at the minute,” he said. “To lose after a try in the last six minutes was heart-breaking. But we’ve taken a lot from that, re-grouped and we’ll leave everything out on the pitch tomorrow.”