- Andy Farrell and Tom Youngs relish series opener
- “It gives me great pleasure to look around at who’s going into battle for us” – Farrell
Even with world-class decision-makers and game-changers scattered across both sides, British and Irish Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell believes the first Test against Australia on Saturday will be decided by sheer physicality and desire.
After months of fierce build-up, the tour has built to the cacophony of what promises to be an enthralling series-opener at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow.
And despite the set-back of Tuesday’s underwhelming 14-12 defeat to the Brumbies, Farrell is confident that the tourists are primed to meet the Wallaby challenge.
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“We all realise now what the hard work we have done over the past six weeks is for,” he said, before highlighting the influence of more experienced members of the party such as Ireland’s Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll.
“You can tell it’s Test week because there’s a buzz around the place and an excitement among the players. There’s an intensity about training.
“We all know the threats of their nine – [Will] Genia is world-class. We know the playmakers that they’ve chosen and we know who will be their ball-carriers in the forwards.
“They’ve got threats all over the field and it’s about dictating our defence to the opposition and not letting them get as comfortable as they want to be.
“Australia have got world-class players and we have world-class players. What you generally get on an occasion like this is that performance levels rise another 10 or 15 per cent.
“The more players you’ve got in your side who have been there and done it, the better. It gives you great pleasure to look around a team meeting and see who’s in the room – who’s going into battle for us.”
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The Lions scorched out of the blocks in Brisbane 12 years ago to record a 29-13 victory thanks to tries from Jason Robinson, Dafydd James, O’Driscoll and Scott Quinnell – and Farrell was adamant that his charges can conjure a repeat performance by adopting a similarly ruthless mind-set.
“When it comes down to it, though, everyone knows what wins big games – it’s physicality, it’s energy and it’s a want to get over the top of your opposition,” he added.
“Those things won’t be any different whatsoever tomorrow.”
Selected at hooker ahead of much-fancied Welshman Richard Hibbard, Tom Youngs is one of the 15 men entrusted with laying down a marker for the Lions.
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Indeed, after revealing his immense excitement at realising a childhood dream, the 26 year-old Leicester Tiger said he was relishing the chance to put in a typically all-action performance opposite Australia’s Stephen Moore.
“That’s the great thing about playing front row – you literally are head-to-head,” Youngs explained. “You’ve got to worry about the things you are doing in a game and not worry about [Moore] too much.
“He’s a great player and had been a proven pro over the years he’s played for Australia. I played against him briefly at Twickenham in the autumn and it was obvious he was a good scrummager.
“At hooker now you have so many different jobs – you have the set-piece but there are a lot of jobs you have to do on top of that. You’ve got carrying, tackling, getting over the ball. You’ve got to be another back-row player really.
“That’s how I like to play the game in my role, anyway. As long as I fulfil my role in the team I’ll be happy.
“Sitting in that changing room tomorrow and running out, words can’t describe what will be going through my head. My heart will be pumping. I can’t wait for it.”