- Conor Murray praises pack after five-try win in Melbourne
- "Everyone wants to put their hands up for the Tests" – Ireland scrum half
Conor Murray highlighted the physicality of the forwards as key factor in the British and Irish Lions’ final midweek victory over the Rebels in Melbourne, after a series of players advanced their claims for involvement in the second Test on Saturday.
With tries from Ireland scrum half Murray, Sean Maitland, Sean O’Brien, a penalty and replacement No.9 Ben Youngs securing the routine 35-0 victory, attention now turns to who Head Coach Warren Gatland will choose to try and secure a first series win in 16 years.
The Lions lost their only match of the tour to the Brumbies in Canberra this time last week but, in contrast to the lacklustre showing up-front on that occasion, the pack provided the platform for Owen Farrell to dictate the game from fly half.
Adding that everyone has an eye on Test slots, Murray said: “Last week we didn’t put a physical stamp on the game and that was a huge talking point for us coming into the game.
“But I think we managed that throughout the whole 80 minutes and the scoreboard really reflected our dominance over them.
“Everyone wants to put their hand up [for selection] as best as they can and that was another discussion point for this team. Obviously this could be a couple of lads’ last game in Lions jersey so it is the last time to put their hands up so no heads went down in the week.”
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Gatland has hinted that he will only tweak the side which opened the three-Test series with an enthralling 23-21 victory in Brisbane. Corbisiero (calf) and Paul O’Connell (broken arm) have already been ruled out of the Melbourne clash and the back row is the other area where the Lions Head Coach may look to alter his options.
Mako Vunipola is likely to get the nod at loose head and with Geoff Parling confirmed by Graham Rowntree to be starting, the locks against the Rebels – Richie Gray and Ian Evans – appear to be in straight shootout for a spot on the bench.
Wales No.8 Toby Faletau and Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien were left out of the match day 23 in Brisbane but both impressed: Faletau making 16 carries and 13 tackles, while O’Brien collected a neat Dan Lydiate offload to cap a powerful game in the loose.
Murray outlined that the mentality going into the game was that they were all one big performance – or an injury – from the Test squad, adding that no one will switch off for the reminder of the tour.
He said: “This tour we’ve had a lot of fellas go home with injuries and people like Alex Corbisiero have stood in and done a remarkable job last week. Chances are round the corner for the majority of people so we need to stay switched on.”