British Lions: Waratahs get lowdown from Gibson

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WITH the British and Irish Lions naming a side for today that hints at combinations for the first Australia Test, the need for Wallabies to spy on the tourists has lessened.

However, for weekend opponents the Waratahs, there is already a vast wealth of intelligence on the wayfarers set for Sydney.

Warren Gatland. Picture: Getty

Warren Gatland. Picture: Getty

“The Lions play with a typical Northern Hemisphere style,” former Glasgow Warrior and Waratahs assistant coach Daryl Gibson says. “They’ll be strong in the set-piece, with good ruck skills and a territory game. We have to be prepared for that because it’s a style that’s not prevalent in Super Rugby. We have a lot of northern experience, though. Head coach Michael Cheika knows a lot of players from his time with Leinster and assistant Alan Gaffney coached with Ireland.”

It is hard to find a coach under 40 with more intimate knowledge of rugby in Europe. Former All Black Gibson spent six seasons in Britain after leaving the Canterbury Crusaders in 2002. Spells with Bristol Shoguns and Leicester Tigers preceded his move to Glasgow and a step towards coaching. He split his time in Scotland’s west between hitting pads and telling others how to hit them.

“There is a different dynamic to rugby in the Northern Hemisphere, but I have been pleased to see the progress the Warriors have made. Sean Lineen worked hard and now Gregor Townsend has helped them progress to where they can compete in the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect Pro12. I always felt the team had a fantastic culture and with a few key recruitments they could challenge.”

It was also at Glasgow where Gibson first came across an impossibly tall academy player named Richie Gray. The monstrous “kid” caught his eye even then, showing skills that belie the awkwardness that comes with having such an enormous frame. The Kiwi admits that when he first saw Gray he caught himself musing about how well the lock would fit-in in the Super Rugby environment.

One man he does know can hack it in the Super 15 is Scotland and Lions winger Sean Maitland, whom he coached for the few seasons he assisted Todd Blackadder at the Crusaders.

On the winger’s lickety-split turnaround – having landed in Scotland seven months ago he went from scoring against England in the Six Nations to pulling on the red of the Lions – Gibson says: “Everyone in Canterbury is thrilled for Sean. He had a few periods where he was very close to All Black selection, but this change for him is fantastic. I know his strengths and his style of play and they can only help Scotland and the Lions.

“He has a boot on him, he can kick, step, has pace – the change of game style from moving from South to North has suited him and the players that do well in the Northern Hemisphere are always the ones that embrace that culture change. He could do well because the North don’t produce many X-Factor players. He could be like Brendan Laney for Scotland, in that respect.” The Kiwi has a certain soft spot for the game over the equator. He knows and respects the tradition of the Lions, having played with no less than seven tourists from the 2005 New Zealand trip during his time in Leicester.

He knows his job, though. Cheika and his coaches have come under scrutiny in the build-up to today’s game by the British press corps stationed in Australia. The Waratahs are missing several notable players and the visitors want strong opposition. David Dennis and Rob Horne have been called back from Wallaby camp and Bernard Foley and Matt Lucas come in as reinforcements from the Australian sevens squad, but Gibson states that they will not change just to suit the illustrious Lions.

“We have a vision this year where we want to change to a winning culture. New South Wales rugby lost its way for a couple of years but we want to play exciting, running rugby. It has taken a long time, and only midway through this season are we getting it.

“The [Queensland] Reds showed they wanted to run against the Lions. We will look to do that, but balance it with practicalities. The young players that beat the [Western] Force last week will get a chance again to step up.”

HOW THEY LINE UP IN SYDNEY

Tour match at Allianz Stadium, today, 10.40am BST

TV: Sky Sports 2

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

Waratahs

15 D Mitchell

14 C Crawford

13 R Horne

12 T Carter

11 P Betham

10 B Foley

9 B McKibbin

1 J Tilse

2 J Ulugia

3 P Ryan

4 W Skelton

5 O Atkins

6 J Holloway

7 P McCutcheon

8 D Dennis (capt)

Subs

16 L Holmes

17 R Aho

18 S Talakai

19 L Timani

20 A J Gilbert

21 M Lucas

22 B Volavola

23 T Kingston

Lions

15 L Halfpenny (Wales)

14 S Maitland (Scotland)

13 J Davies (Wales)

12 J Roberts (Wales)

11 S Zebo (Ireland)

10 J Sexton (Ireland)

9 M Phillips (Wales)

1 M Vunipola (England)

2 T Youngs (England)

3 A Jones (Wales)

4 A-W Jones (Wales)

5 P O’Connell (Ireland)

6 T Croft (England)

7 S Warburton (Wales, capt)

8 J Heaslip (Ireland)

Subs

16 R Hibbard (Wales)

17 A Corbisiero (England)

18 D Cole (England)

19 G Parling (England)

20 D Lydiate (Wales)

21 B Youngs (England)

22 O Farrell (England)

23 R Kearney (Ireland)

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