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Big mistake to omit O'Brien as tourists bid to end argument

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Sean O'Brien during Lions squad training. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Sean O'Brien during Lions squad training. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Sean O'Brien during Lions squad training. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

IN one sense, the Lions have heaped their remaining two Test eggs into one basket by emphasising how they have to finish the series off tomorrow.

Brian O'Driscoll started this process in the first Test post-match huddle by telling everyone else how he had been there before, holding a 1-0 lead over the Australians in 2001. And we all know what happened back then.

"Fourth time around, we just have to win this series. We're in a great place – 50 per cent there. We just have to finish it off," he said.

"That was the little bit of chat after the game. This isn't a three-Test series. This is a two-Test series. Do it in two".

Captain Sam Warburton has continued that trend: "All the talk around the players this week has been about making sure we finish it this weekend. There has been no complacency."

The danger is that the Lions will come unhinged and then have to deal with the deflationary effect of losing their advantage and the incredible psychological fallout. Warburton went on: "Momentum would completely swing if Australia won. They'd be going into another home game to finish after winning a game, so we definitely want to finish it off this weekend and the players are motivated to do that."

However, coach Warren Gatland's unfathomable decision to introduce Dan Lydiate into the same back row as Warburton and Jamie Heaslip could be the Lions' downfall. The onus will move almost exclusively onto Heaslip to carry ball as the Welshmen are resolute stoppers, not go-forward ball players.

Given that, the logical solution of using Lydiate would have been to make it an all-Welsh back row. It is in the nitty-gritty detail of defence that Heaslip outshines Toby Faletau.

Gatland has also sacrificed at the scrum for the extra carrying impact of Mako Vunipola ahead of the tighter work Ryan Grant at loose-head. This is a dangerous game.

There is also the loss of Paul O'Connell as the Lions' air traffic controller out of touch, albeit for Geoff Parling, who is a slick lineout leader.

The Lions' greatest strength rests from numbers 10 to 14, with Tommy Bowe rightly called in ahead of Alex Cuthbert on the right wing and Ben Youngs promoted to nine.

They need front-foot ball to carve up the Australians. This is where the explosive Seán O'Brien would have come into the equation. He could be summoned to save the day.

Where the Lions have chosen to go into their shell and attempt to become bombproof, Australia have opted for the mercurial skills of Kurtley Beale at full-back and the strike force of Joe Tomane on the left wing, both changes brought about through injury.

Their main bone of contention comes in the retention of James O'Connor at out-half where he was clearly at sixes and sevens in the first test.

Australia: K Beale; I Folau, A Ashley-Cooper, C Lealiifano, J Tomane; J O'Connor, W Genia; B Robinson, S Moore, B Alexander, K Douglas, J Horwill (capt), B Mowen, M Hooper, W Palu.

The Lions: L Halfpenny; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll, J Davies, G North; J Sexton, B Youngs; M Vunipola, T Youngs, A Jones, AW Jones, G Parling,

D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt), J Heaslip.

Verdict: Australia


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