BRITISH and Irish Lions manager Andy Irvine has put into sharp focus the significance of Saturday’s Test series decider against Australia in Sydney.
The Lions, who look set to be captained by Brian O’Driscoll instead of the injured Sam Warburton, will train today following two days’ break in Noosa. Coach Warren Gatland also announces his team today, with centre Jamie Roberts, scrum-half Mike Phillips and prop Alex Corbisiero all in contention after missing the 16-15 second Test defeat.
“We think Saturday’s game is so important because, quite frankly, it’s about time we won in the southern hemisphere,” Irvine said. “We haven’t won here [Australia] since 1989, we haven’t won in the southern hemisphere since 1997. We were extremely close in 2009, we’ve been extremely close on this tour. One kick succeeded on Saturday, one failed. All you needed was for one of those kicks to go the other way and we would have been 2-0 and the series would have been in the bag.
“Their [players’] pride has been dented, but they are model pros. They will be really determined to still win this series. Don’t have any sympathy for them. They have had a great couple of days’ break, a chance to unwind and do really good recovery in the sea, and a bit of peace and quiet, but it is down to hard work tomorrow.”
England’s 2003 World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward has criticised the Lions for basing themselves 500 miles north of Sydney on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. But Irvine has no doubt it was the right decision taking the tour party away and into a quiet backwater before flying to Sydney tomorrow.
“I’ve been on five Lions tours now and believe me, after the second Test the boys are physically and mentally exhausted,” he added. “They need a break. This place has been fabulous. The lads need to recharge their batteries, and where better to do it than up here? To be stuck in Sydney for six days in a concrete jungle – that’s not quite as conducive as what we’ve got up here.
“In my time playing, between the second and third Test in South Africa you went on safari; in New Zealand you went up to the Bay of Islands or somewhere warm, where there was a tourist resort. All we are doing is something very similar.”