Lions question George Smith’s selection

By Darren Walton, Darren Walton is a Roar Guru

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    The desperate British and Irish Lions have taken aim at Australia’s inspirational forward leaders as they try to avoid the ignominy of four straight series defeats for the first time in 125 years.

    Not once in their proud history stretching back to their first visit to Australia and New Zealand in 1888 have the Lions suffered four consecutive series losses and the tourists admit they’re “prepared to do anything” to beat the Wallabies on Saturday night.

    “It’s the biggest game of our lives, this, as players and coaches,” Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree said on Friday.

    “This is grand final rugby. The last throw of the dice. Everything to play for.

    “I’d say desperate is the word.”

    So desperate that the Lions are risking retribution from the Wallabies for questioning the selection of veteran flanker George Smith, who turns 33 next week, for his first Test in four years and for mocking skipper James Horwill’s emotional celebration after Australia’s tense series-levelling win last Saturday.

    Smith hasn’t played for six weeks because of a knee injury, but has replaced Michael Hooper in the back row and consigned reserve flanker Liam Gill to a place in the stands at ANZ Stadium.

    “We’ll see how much of a gamble it is with Smith tomorrow,” Rowntree said.

    “I’m surprised at that. He’s been out for a long time. It will be interesting to see his match fitness. They’ve got three good sevens in that squad.”

    Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry has also labelled Smith’s selection a risk, but Wallabies vice-captain Will Genia on Friday dismissed fears the 110-Test legend has been rushed back prematurely.

    “George is a freak,” Genia said. “He’s running around like he’s 21.”

    Rowntree isn’t doubting Smith’s prowess and knows Irish flanker Sean O’Brien, in for injured Lions captain Sam Warburton, will have his work cut out.

    But he is backing the Lions back row to win the key breakdown battle.

    “He’s still good, still very good technically, but he makes very good decisions when to go in there to challenge the breakdown,” Rowntree said.

    “It’s going to be a big challenge for Sean. But from what we’ve seen from training today and how we’ve trained all week, crikey we’re ready for this battle.”

    While Genia and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans are promising Australia’s best performance of the series, Rowntree believes the hosts played their grand final in Melbourne.

    “I think we saw the reaction from Australia last week after they beat us,” Rowntree said.

    “Especially their captain Horwill – he was crying after the game – they threw everything at us in that game and beat us by a point and we really didn’t get our game going.

    “We know that and we’ve looked at it a lot this week. Particularly third and fourth quarter, we didn’t get going and there’s loads more to come from us.

    “And the guys are desperate to win.”

    The Lions haven’t won a series since downing South Africa 2-1 in 1997.

    The last time they faced four straight series defeats, the Lions edged Australia 19-18 in the 1989 decider in Sydney.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (25)

    • July 6th 2013 @ 8:10am
      Jameswm said | July 6th 2013 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      Sounds like Rowntree is trying to give himself confidence.

    • July 6th 2013 @ 8:17am
      Worlds Biggest said | July 6th 2013 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      Nice little bait thrown out there by Rowntree, the Wallabies have kept a low profile on this front which is good. They were poor last week and will be keen to put in a big performance tonight. Georgie Smith back in the gold jersey will lift them.

    • July 6th 2013 @ 8:22am
      ohtani's jacket said | July 6th 2013 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      We didn’t play that well but the opposition only just won. Where have I heard that before? There’s nothing quite like winding up Australians. It’s like watching a yappy little dog chase its own tail.

      • Roar Guru

        July 6th 2013 @ 11:59am
        Rob na Champassak said | July 6th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        No nibbles today, OJ?

        • July 6th 2013 @ 12:13pm
          ohtani's jacket said | July 6th 2013 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

          No baiting from me just a genuine observation. They all nibbling on Rowntree using their own logic against them. That’s confusing for the average Australian mammal.

    • July 6th 2013 @ 8:26am
      kombiutedriver said | July 6th 2013 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      Typical of stuff coming out of the Lions camp. Deflect attention away from themselves by rattling off comments about the Wallabies. Reeks of desperation and lack of confidence in their own camp. Would have been better to offer no comment at all.

    • Roar Guru

      July 6th 2013 @ 9:07am
      Nick Turnbull said | July 6th 2013 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      You get the sence that its going to be brutal when you look at the size of the Lions team. Its quite obvious they plan to bash the Wallabies off the park. I think they will go close to doing it if they get the good rub from the French ref. The selection of George Smith at open side flanker was a no brainer. Australia were not good enough at the break down in Mebourne, an facet of the game George Smith is a proven master.

      I would not expect Smith to play the full 80 and Deans favourite Michael Hooper will feature at some stage of the game. This is a poor selection by Deans as Hooper has had little impact at the break down. I watched the 2nd test again last night in specific Hooper. There is no doubting his willingness but he is either being used incorrecly by Deans or not yet up to this level of rugby. I watch him stand off rucks in the open defensive channel, then drift further out to be part of an attacking pod. In attack he runs like an extra back and this is where he clocks up good meters but be under no illusion he is no combatant at the break down. His real impact was when he timed his run beautifully to rush Ben Youngs and sack him. Great play but that was really about it for Hooper.

      Liam Gill came on as a blind side flanker and played much tighter. Gill does not look to play the game much wider than the ruck and often his first option is to play in the ruck, looking to seize the ball or slow down the play of the ball. He is a combatant! Furthermore his body height appears lower than Hooper’s in both attack and defence. Whilst Hooper’s stats shows he had more involvment, his impact was lesser in my opinion to that of Gill who when cleaning out takes opposition defenders out of the play generally. Gil”s missed tackle was when he was a chaser of kick and first to arrive and was out paced by a Lions back. No real shame in that. Where were the other chasers?

      When Sean O’Brien came on he charged down the park with Hooper grabbing at him initally then after about a 10 meter run O’Brien was felled but the damage was done. Some have argued Hooper gives you a point of difference. Well I personally think Hooper’s game is not is what required for what promises to be a battle of attrition.

      As for O’Disscoll; Well it was Jon Davies that stayed in too long on JOC and did not trust BOD to make the tackle – yet BOD gets chopped. Roberts is not a great defender and clearly neither is Davies. If JOC can get his alignmentright the Wallabies could really profit there.

      I can’t pick a winner now. It will all come down to how Poite interprets the break down.

      • Roar Guru

        July 6th 2013 @ 10:17am
        jeznez said | July 6th 2013 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        Uncle Arg, I generally agree that Gill is a better 7 and going to get even better but I think Hooper is a better bench player if you are going to have a reserve 7 (something that I don’t agree with having. That is a different conversation thought). The reason I vote for Hoops on the bench is his pace and wide running game. If there are gaps later in the match he is better placed to take advantage.

        • Roar Guru

          July 6th 2013 @ 11:52am
          Nick Turnbull said | July 6th 2013 @ 11:52am | ! Report

          Fair enough Jez. I thought that is what backs were for!

          What if George does his medial in the first ruck?

          • July 6th 2013 @ 1:35pm
            Defier Pariah said | July 6th 2013 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

            Would you not like another back sometimes?
            Anyway I disagree that Gill is a better 7. He is a better fetcher but not a better 7. Lets not pretend 7s have to be great fetchers because Tipuric, O’Brien, McCaw, Dusautoir, Louw, Robshaw and a few others are not great fetchers in the same mold as Gill, Pocock, Todd, Brussouw but are great 7s.
            It seems to me that people cant get their heads around players that are not the norm for those positions but from nation to nation and era to era the ideal for a position is different and thats not to mention players like Hooper or Mike Phillips that are not the norm for their positions but amoungst the best.
            Lomu was not the normal wing and 25 years ago a 12 like SBW was unusual to say the least.

    • July 6th 2013 @ 9:26am
      Worlds Biggest said | July 6th 2013 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      Apart from some cross field kicks for Izzy I’d like to see a few chips to turn around there big centres, we need some variety tonight. Going wide each time won’t catch the Lions out. However a chip or grubber could be effective, must keep the defence guessing. Despite his limitations JOC can pull this play off, he takes to the line often enough, put a grubber in and regather.

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