The final Lions tour match before the first Test against the Wallabies on Saturday is taking place tonight in Canberra as the Brumbies host the British and Irish Lions. We’ll have live scores and commentary from 7.30pm AEST.
Already much has been made of the scheduling of this fixture.
Jake White has come out whinging that as the top team in the Australian conference the Brumbies should have had prime billing against the Lions in the form of a Saturday night game.
The problem for the ACT side is that Canberra Stadium can host just 25,000 people, just as Newcastle did against the Combined Country side, whereas the Reds packed out Suncorp Stadium with 50,000 and the Waratahs packed out Allianz Stadium with 40,000.
Money talks and Canberra is too small.
The Lions meanwhile would no doubt prefer a full week of preparation in Brisbane ahead of the first Test rather than this detour into the nation’s capital.
The team that runs out tonight will feature not a single starter for the first Test on Saturday.
In fact the best any of the Lions players on display tonight can hope for is to force their way onto the bench.
This makes the Brumbies the most likely of the Australian teams to topple the Lions. The Brumbies are best able to cover the loss of their Wallabies and have the bonus of two players being released from camp to play tonight.
The front row is a little inexperienced and the second row lacks grunt but the backrow and backline doesn’t miss a step.
Kimlin and Fainga’a will be strong all game, Speight is the best finisher in the country and Mogg may be the only man in Australian rugby who has the capacity to win a kicking duel with Lions fullback Kearney.
The Brumbies would have had an unchanged halves pairing too but sadly Nic White has suffered a shoulder injury at exactly the wrong time of the season, for the second year running.
Injuries are striking the Lions before the test series even begins with Manu Tuilagi (shoulder), George North (hamstring) and Brian O’Driscoll (groin) all suffering minor niggles while Tommy Bowe’s tour has already ended and Jamie Roberts’ is in doubt after a suspected torn hamstring on Saturday night against the Waratahs.
Gatland is in fact putting his backs in cotton wool with only one backline player (outside the halves) originally named in the touring party.
Shane Williams, the Welshman with the dancing feet is called out of retirement for one last hurrah and the English backline of Twelvetrees, Barritt and Wade is lifted wholesale to provide cover for the Test starters.
Apparently a small amount of rain is predicted for the match which could spoil the event and would probably play into the Lions’ hands. It’ll be a cold game, but that won’t surprise the Canberra faithful.
Despite that this should be a close game and the Brumbies are primed to knock off the Lions in an upset.
Join us on The Roar from 7.30pm AEST for live updates and scores.