ROBBIE DEANS: The Lions on Tour – every game will be a Test!

Robbie Deans Columnist

By Robbie Deans, Robbie Deans is a Roar Expert

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    Wallabies coach Robbie Deans speaks to the media. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    Time is up on the clock. British and Irish Lions fullback Gwyn Evans is lining up a conversion from out near the sideline.

    Fortunately the kick flies wide, the final whistle goes, and Canterbury has beaten the Lions 22-20.

    The picture I have just painted might have happened 30 years ago; but it remains an indelible memory from my own playing career.

    We had a great team at the time and went on that year to win the NPC while also retaining the Ranfurly Shield; but that moment against the Lions was a once-in-a-lifetime – and they visited New Zealand a lot more frequently back then than they do now, with the schedule bringing them across once every six years in those days.

    Everyone wants to play a Test match against the Lions.

    It is an honour that eluded me, with my own All Black debut not coming until later that year; but the fact that I only experienced the Lions in a tour match capacity doesn’t change the significance of the occasion.

    Nor will it for the players chosen to represent Australia’s five states, and the combined country side, when they line-up against the British and Irish Lions on this tour.
    International rugby is a step up.

    The intensity is higher, the pace faster and the physicality a level above what is experienced in Super Rugby.

    As this touring party has been drawn exclusively from four Test sides with no uncapped players on the trip, which hasn’t always been the case on previous tours; every side the Lions put out in Australia this month will be of Test strength in its entirety.

    That will be a great challenge for the Super rugby sides, as will the intensity of the atmosphere, with stadiums packed by a significant number of vocal and red-clad visitors.

    For many of the players who feature against the Lions in these matches; the games will be the pinnacle of their careers, as it was for a number of my team-mates back in 1983.

    It will also be the biggest opportunity they have ever had.

    Performing well will nudge them closer to Wallaby level in the future; perhaps even as soon as later in the year, remembering last year was so taxing that 41 players were required across the 15 Tests played by the Wallabies.

    As selectors we will be watching these games closely, not just with regards to our own plans for tackling the Lions, but also in terms of seeing which players respond, showing that they have the capacity to take their games to the next level.

    Don’t for a second think that any of our state sides will roll over either.

    As has been the case with the professional provincial sides in New Zealand and South Africa on recent Lions tours; while those teams have played without their Test representatives, they have still proved incredibly competitive.

    The reality of last year’s circumstance, with so many players gaining Test access, is that our depth has grown significantly across the board.

    We have seen it already this year in Super Rugby.

    Even without their current Wallabies, all five Super Rugby sides will still field combinations that boast significant international experience.

    The Lions story is full of epic state or provincial upsets, where the tourists have been brought undone by an unrelenting opponent, despite pre-match expectations of a one-sided nature.

    Don’t discount more of the same as the next chapter unfolds.

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    The Crowd Says (60)

    • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:25am
      kingplaymaker said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      The Lions seemed to have problems with the conditions in Hong Kong, which makes me think the province with the highest workrate in the later stages, or from the bench, could run them off their feet.

      • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:34am
        Red Kev said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:34am | ! Report

        No where they Lions play will have Hong Kong type conditions, I fail to see how you can draw that conclusion with any confidence.

        • June 3rd 2013 @ 6:47pm
          SkinnyKid said | June 3rd 2013 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

          Said countless times.

          The HK conditions were over stated. I was there.

          No hotter than a preseason game a ballymore. Yes, they wont get this on tour. But the bleating by the Lions is a joke.

      • June 3rd 2013 @ 9:27am
        Brendo said | June 3rd 2013 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        It’s the start of summer in Hong Kong. Any team would have problems with those conditions….

      • June 3rd 2013 @ 10:43am
        crash ball said | June 3rd 2013 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        they still won by 50+

    • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:34am
      kingplaymaker said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      fos did you notice that 5 of the regular starting 22 were injured this weekend? How many more would be if they all played the next weeks, and how would they have time to prepare against the Lions if they were doing so?

      • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:45am
        TembaVJ said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:45am | ! Report

        Kev I think we can all agree that Aussie has had a high number of injuries the last couple of years. Especially in key positions at key times.

        I am with KPM The Lions and the Wallabies are more important. Super rugby gets tougher each year and the players need recovery time.

        • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:47am
          Red Kev said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:47am | ! Report

          Injuries are an issue all teams face, I only take issue when people describe the situation with hyperbole and use it as an excuse – like kpm all last year.

          • June 3rd 2013 @ 11:07am
            soapit said | June 3rd 2013 @ 11:07am | ! Report

            so super rugby is the same as test rugby when it suits your argument i suppose.

            • Roar Guru

              June 3rd 2013 @ 3:37pm
              Simon Levingston said | June 3rd 2013 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

              Robbie, good luck. To state the obvious, it will be very hard to stop the Lions up front as there is plenty of experience from the battle hardened forwards, with a strong bench full of test forwards to be used as “super subs”. The weakness, I see, for the Wallabies is at hooker, losing TPN as back up to Stephen Moore has greatly reduced the chances of winning the series. Is there any chance Scott Sio could play hooker for 3 games?

            • June 3rd 2013 @ 6:34pm
              kombiutedriver said | June 3rd 2013 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

              Bring on the Brumbies I say.

            • June 3rd 2013 @ 6:34pm
              kombiutedriver said | June 3rd 2013 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

              Bring on the Brumbies I say.

          • June 3rd 2013 @ 5:05pm
            Well Ruck me. said | June 3rd 2013 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

          • June 3rd 2013 @ 5:06pm
            Well Ruck me. said | June 3rd 2013 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

            “Injuries are an issue all teams face, I only take issue when people describe the situation with hyperbole and use it as an excuse – like kpm all last year.”

            Or when it interferes with your argument that Robbie is to blame for everything?

            • Roar Guru

              June 3rd 2013 @ 5:11pm
              Red Kev said | June 3rd 2013 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

              Oh look, more drivel from poster Well Ruck me – what a surprise.

              • June 3rd 2013 @ 5:55pm
                Well Ruck me. said | June 3rd 2013 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

                You know its true.
                When it suits you you will make a big deal of 1 or 2 selections and act as if the sky will fall.
                Then when it suits you you will pretent 10 players missing including those players you think must be selected and the first 3 captains and pretend it means little.
                Which is it Kev, do the players in the team matter or not?

              • June 3rd 2013 @ 6:51pm
                Chivas said | June 3rd 2013 @ 6:51pm | ! Report

                What are you saying Quade or Deans. Quade must be in the team but not under Deans. Didn’t you read my article.

                Quade needs Link and Genia. I hate Deans! I do not have to make sense as long as I can loosely piece the logic together in my head, it’s fact and everyone else is a liar and twisting my words. So take your logic and rack off ruck me.

              • June 3rd 2013 @ 7:36pm
                Chivas said | June 3rd 2013 @ 7:36pm | ! Report

                Actually that was a weak shot at humour. It may have worked better if I put it to a short movie clip.

                I have a question though. How would Quade perform outside Phipps or another less flamboyant half back? I want to see him against the Lions for this reason. Can he still make a difference. He has game so I would like to see how the back line runs without Genia. I thought he was going ok and improving on his basic skills and accuracy before Genia came back.

                Also why is Taps playing centre, not 2nd five. Is this where they want to develop him.AAC / Taps, CL / BB, JOC/QC… I don’t think JOC is a long term 1st five unless he matures a lot in a short space of time. Even with a full season he would struggle I think. So QC/Toomua.

                QC is for me like Stephen Donald, full of promise but not so high on return. Still he is young and the ship certainly is a long way from sailing.

        • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:47am
          TembaVJ said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:47am | ! Report

          Besides Kev Wallabies being out gives the Rebels a chance to beat the Brumbies and keep your reds in contention. 🙂

          • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:48am
            Red Kev said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:48am | ! Report

            Reds will make the finals with no help from the Brumbies or Rebels. They lost their chances to go top of the conference twice earlier in the year, it is a wildcard for them this year. I posted somewhere else that this year it is a three-horse race (the three conference leading teams Chiefs, Bulls, Brumbies) as the wildcard teams (Cheetahs, Crusaders, Reds) are just a level below in play this year.

            • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:50am
              TembaVJ said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:50am | ! Report

              By my calculations its going to be a prelim final Brumbies v Reds in ACT… I am staying away from the computer that weekend…

            • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:51am
              TembaVJ said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:51am | ! Report

              Either that or the reds will have to fly to Pretoria…

            • June 3rd 2013 @ 8:57am
              Red Kev said | June 3rd 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

              Neither proposition fills me with confidence TembaVJ!

    • June 3rd 2013 @ 9:12am
      Tj said | June 3rd 2013 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article Robbie. Many “roarers” getting very vocal over the wallabies selections over the past week or so as everyone wants to see their favorite player involved such an important series. I think it is time we get behind not only our wallaby squad selected but all of our S15 provinces and realise that all are representing OZ over the next month regardless of whether or not they’re wearing the gold jersey. Good luck with the series mate!

    • June 3rd 2013 @ 9:38am
      Dougal said | June 3rd 2013 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      Best of luck to Robbie and the Wallabies. I’m very concerned now with the number of injuries and the number of players coming back from injury who aren’t match fit or back to form yet However if playing against the Lions doesn’t step them up a level or two, nothing will.

    • June 3rd 2013 @ 11:15am
      Rob G said | June 3rd 2013 @ 11:15am | ! Report

      Thanks again for the article RD. The excitement is definitely building for a massive series. It must have been awesome to knock them off with a provincial side.

    • June 3rd 2013 @ 11:49am
      Harry said | June 3rd 2013 @ 11:49am | ! Report

      This is of course spin from the ARU to pump up the teams, and interest in them playing the Lions pre test. Otherwise the actions would have matched the words … release McAlman to play for the Force, Slipper and Simmons for the Reds, etc.

      Only players in the squad I wouldn’t release are Genia, Robinson, Horwill, Moore, Mowem and Hooper. In my opinion the rest of them are either at the margin/probably won’t make the starting 15, or more importantly, lacking recent game time. In the latter category are Cummins, Barnes, Beale (assume he’ll make it), JOC, Palu and Kepu.

      • June 3rd 2013 @ 4:47pm
        Well Ruck me. said | June 3rd 2013 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

        I think they want to limit injuries and have more time to get the team to gel.

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