Australian media brand Paul O'Connell a 'slab of red meat'
WARREN Gatland's British and Irish Lions squad has been branded a "slab of red meat" in the Australian media following the announcement of the 37-man party today.
Australians woke up to the news of Gatland's squad with their press offering an almost unanimous verdict of Gatland's intentions - he would try to physically intimidate the Wallabies on their home soil.
Gatland picked the biggest Welsh contingent in over 30 years - 15 players in all - after they retained their RBS 6 Nations crown by overpowering England on the final day of the tournament.
And scribes Down Under believe that match will provide a precursor of what to expect over the three Tests this winter, beginning in Brisbane on June 22.
The Sydney Morning Herald ran with the on-line headline: "No surprise as Gatland opts for slab of red meat", while The Australian told fans not to expect pretty rugby under the banner: "British and Irish Lions' candy floss rugby will be hard-coated".
Forecasting the "Mother of all Battles" it was suggested the likes of England skipper Chris Robshaw and Joe Lanchbury were left out to accommodate a bruising group of players.
"Coach Warren Gatland has surveyed the menu in front of him and opted for red meat - large slabs of it," Paul Cully wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.
"There are two 'late' inclusions that catch the eye: Irish second-rower Paul O'Connell and Welsh blindside breakaway Dan Lydiate. These are two of the hardest men on the northern scene.
"You suspect Gatland would have stood on front of the plane on the Heathrow tarmac to buy them enough time for them to board."
It was also pointed out Gatland's Wales players would take the memory of six defeats in the past 19 months against Australia into the series.
Brisbane's Courier Mail took a slightly different approach - and perhaps started the pre-tour baiting - as they highlighted the Lions squad would include "a Kiwi discard and a South African busted for cocaine. No joke".
The Kiwi reference was to Scotland's Sean Maitland, the cousin of Australia's New Zealand-born fly-half Quade Cooper, who earned a surprise call alongside Matt Stevens.
Stevens, who grew up in Durban, was given a two-year ban after testing positive for cocaine following a match in 2008.
Both were described as "tour bolters" although the verdict slightly softened on Stevens, who will make his second Lions tour despite retiring from England duty, to describe his selection as "an admirable tale of success, turmoil, shame and redemption".
Away from the headline-grabbing notes the general mood was that Australia faced a tough task against a Lions team where "the forwards are battle-hardened and the backs laden with speed, skill and control".
An early poll on Australia's chances of winning the series in the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that Wallabies' fans shared such concern, with 55 per cent suggesting the Lions would triumph.