Australia vs British & Irish Lions |Saturday 29 June | Docklands Stadium | 12:00
A brutal first test meeting resulted in the tourists going 1-0 up in the series, leaving the Wallabies desperate for a win this week in Melbourne. Disastrous kicking by the Wallabies ended up costing them the game, James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale only managing to convert three out of seven penalties and one out of two conversion opportunities. But it wasn’t all bad news for Robbie Deans’ team. Despite being on the losing side in Brisbane, Wallaby winger Israel Folau secured the man of the match accolade on his test debut. Electrifying on attack, claiming both of the Wallaby tries himself, and unbelievably potent on defence, this fresh face in the Aussie setup is definitely here to stay. The intensity of the first test took a big toll on the Australian backline, Christian Lealiifano, Pat McCabe and Berrick Barnes were all carried off, resulting in loose forward Michael Hooper playing most of the second half at centre. Seems as if everything that could go wrong did. Is Robbie Deans regretting his decision not to include Quade Cooper in his Wallaby side? He’ll never admit it if he was anyway.
It can’t really be denied that the British and Irish Lions had a bit of luck on their side in their narrow 23-21 victory last week. With Kurtley Beale slipping while taking a very kickable penalty in the dying minutes of the game that would have resulted in an Aussie victory, and with the Wallabies losing three players so early on in the game and having to play for 30 minutes with a flank in the midfield, it is a wonder the Lions never managed to pull off a more convincing win. To their credit, the Lions made sure they got the basics right, with fullback Leigh Halfpenny landing five of his six attempts at goal. Jonathan Sexton led his backline well in exploiting the shortcomings in the Australian midfield after Pat McCabe was taken off, and had it not been for the impressive try-saving tackle by Israel Folau, Lions wing George North would have undoubtedly dotted down for his second try of the night.
To Win (80mins)
Australia (+3.5) 9/10
Lions (-3.5) 9/10
Good news for the Wallabies as Christian Lealiifano has been cleared to play after being knocked out less than a minute into the first test last week. He will take over the kicking duties this week, which will hopefully prevent a repeat of last week’s comedy with the boot for the Australians. Kurtley Beale has been named to start at fullback in the absence of Berrick Barnes, while Joe Tomane takes over from the injured Digby Ioane on the wing. Brumby Jesse Mogg has been named on the bench and could claim his international debut this weekend if he is called upon. Robbie Deans has allowed James O’Connor another shot in the number 10 jersey despite his horrific showing there last week.
Five changes in total for the Lions this week, two forced changes in the forwards as Paul O’Connell and Alex Corbisiero have been sidelined with injury. Geoff Parling will start at lock while Mako Vunipola cracks the nod in the front row. Dan Lydiate and Tommy Bowe will flank the scrum for the Lions this weekend. Mike Phillips has been dropped out of the match day 23 altogether, with Coach Warren Gatland opting for Ben Youngs to start in the number 9 jersey instead. Conor Murray will provide cover for Youngs on the bench.
VERDICT: Australia 16/10
A series of unfortunate events prevented the Wallabies from taking the game last weekend, and even with everything going wrong for the home side, the Lions hardly managed the most convincing of victories. With the return of Christian Lealiifano to the starting side this week the Australians won’t have to worry about the kicking, and perhaps with that off his shoulders, and actual centres on his inside, the young O’Connor may just surprise us. Australia by 7.
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