Deans, Smith, O’Connor, and Poite the keys tonight for Wallabies
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James O'Connor looks to break through for the Wallabies in their 15-14 win over the Lions. (Tim Anger Photography)
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans will have his troops on high alert on three counts tonight at ANZ Stadium for the series decider against the Lions.
First up it’s a huge promotional game for rugby in Australia, secondly it will be history-making to beat the Lions in successive series, and thirdly it’s overdue for the Australian fans to have something to cheer about well into the night.
There is a fourth, but the reserved Deans won’t be thinking about it – his own survival.
The knives are poised, and this is the perfect time for Deans to knock the knockers with the series success.
And I can taste it.
There have been spasmodic signs in this bitter-sweet but exciting campaign during the 23-21 loss and 16-15 win the Wallabies are starting to believe in themselves.
And high time. If they can click tonight, we are in for a cracker of a game.
The biggest cheer of the night will be reserved for the Wallaby with seven on his back – George Smith – champion player, champion bloke.
Even the most avid Lions supporters will be saluting the about to be 33-year-old, who is an ornament to the game.
Smith’s presence will lift the Wallabies a couple of notches, he’s a top motivator in his own quiet and super-efficient way.
And the Lions know they are up against a formidable opponent who will in their face for the entire time he’s on the paddock.
Will this be James O’Connor’s night, after two very ordinary to poor performances at 10, highlighted by just one pass in 160 minutes that sent Adam Ashley-Cooper in for what turned out to be the match-winning try last Saturday?
Deans has backed O’Connor from the start, it’s time O’Connor repaid the faith.
Wallaby wingers Israel Folau and Joe Tomane must not be starved tonight, and it’s up to O’Connor to see that doesn’t happen.
There’s no argument he has the natural ability to do anything on the rugby field. For him to have a blinder tonight would be the icing on the cake.
And that leaves French referee Romain Poite, who loves to let both sides have an open go.
That’s a major plus. But of the three refs during this series with Chris Pollock, and Craig Joubert, he’s the least experienced in the biggest game.
This will be a severe test for the pocket-rocket who has to look up to half-backs in an international that could well get fiery with so much at stake for both sides.
The downside will be if Poite loses control and blows the pea out his whistle.
If it turns out to be a penalty shootout between Christian Lealiifano and Leigh Halfpenny, that would be a tragedy.
But if Poite can handle the biggest leap of his career, we will have the blockbuster it promises to be.
Let that be the case, bring it on.