The intense scrum battle has been a feature of the series between Australia and the Lions. Picture: AFP/news.com.au
The stage could hardly be set any better for the 3rd Test between Australia and the British and Irish Lions on Saturday night, with the ledger all square at 1-1 going into the final match of the series. Add to that the fact that Wallaby legend and crowd favourite George Smith returns to the team for the first time since 2009 and another mouth-watering contest is in prospect.
110 Test veteran George Smith is the only new face in the team that outlasted the Lions 16-15 at Etihad Stadium last week, with Michael Hooper dropping back onto the bench at the expense of Liam Gill. Ben McCalman also comes back into the squad at the expense of Rob Horne, with coach Robbie Deans electing to revert to a six-forward, two back split on the bench.
Lions mentor Warren Gatland has rung the changes following his sides defeat in Melbourne, with captain Sam Warburton and experience centre Brian O’Driscoll two of the incumbents that won’t feature at ANZ Stadium. Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones will lead the side into battle with his national skipper ruled out with a hamstring injury, while O’Driscoll has been replaced at centre by James Roberts, who is one of ten Welsh players in the starting XV. Mike Phillips, Toby Faletau, Sean O’Brien, Alex Corbisiero and Richard Hibbard have all been drafted into the run on side.
There has been nothing to separate these sides in the two matches that they have played in the past fortnight, with the Lions winning by two points in the series opener before the Wallabies squared things up with a one point win last week. After having to be substituted after getting knocked out in the first minute of his Test debut at Suncorp Stadium, Christian Lealiifano’s pinpoint kicking was a driving force in Australia’s win with the centre kicking four goals from as many attempts compared to the four from nine record that James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale put together a week earlier.
Although attacking opportunities were limited in the 2nd Test – with Wallabies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper the only player to get across the tryline – it was the usual suspects that posed the biggest threat to the opposition defence with both Israel Folau and George North looking dangerous whenever they touched the ball.
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