Lions spoilt for choice at scrumhalf, says Wallabies’ Will Genia
WILL Genia is keenly aware he is fighting a one-man rearguard action against a red tide of British and Irish Lions scrumhalves but has long grown accustomed to being the Wallabies' lone general in the middle.
Genia, widely regarded as the best scrumhalf in the world, will take on England's Ben Youngs in the crunch second test in Melbourne tomorrow after an intriguing match-up with Welshman Mike Phillips in the opener.
Ireland's Conor Murray, another in-form number nine, will await his chance from the Lions' bench in Melbourne.
"I think they are really spoilt for choice in the three halfbacks they have," Genia said. "They are all high-quality players."
Genia, however, is likely to play every minute of every test if he can stay on his feet, with the gap in class between the 25-year-old and understudy Nick Phipps too large to contemplate for many Australian rugby fans.
The Wallabies were edged 23-21 in the Brisbane thriller, and flyhalf James O'Connor struggled for impact as the backline imploded with injuries, but Genia continued to calmly direct traffic amid the chaos.
The pint-sized playmaker set up his side's first try with a dash down the right wing, cannily holding the ball up to wait for support before dribbling a perfectly-placed kick into the path of winger Israel Folau.
Lions coach Warren Gatland said he was resting Phillips after the experienced scrumhalf emerged from Lang Park with a sore knee, one of three unforced changes to the starting side, which also sees flanker Dan Lydiate promoted to the back row.
British media have speculated the moves are as much about stopping Genia as keeping the squad fresh, but the Papua New Guinea-born scrumhalf was having none of it.
"As it's been said by their coach Warren Gatland their changes have been made based on form," he said.
"I don't see it as shutting any one particular player down, they've just been playing good rugby and they've been rewarded."
Unlike Phillips, who stands 1.91 metres tall and weighs 103kg and whom Genia likened to a "ninth forward", Youngs would offer a bit more attack-based play and seek to stretch the Wallabies defence on the flanks.
"Ben Youngs is probably a bit more attacking player, he likes to get out of the rucks and in the many times he has done for England he scoots out and he's got the ability to put players through holes and hold up defenders to create space out wide," Genia said.
"We watched him all tour. He's been rewarded with an opportunity. We'll have to work hard to nullify him as a threat."