Tuesday 16 January 2018

Gatland hints at Test role for O'Brien as he saves some of flanker's fuel

Sean O'Brien in action against Melbourne Rebels
Sean O'Brien in action against Melbourne Rebels
Conor George

Conor George

SEAN O'BRIEN'S performance against the Rebels will be one that tests the veracity of Warren Gatland's post and pre-match suggestions there will be changes to his Test team and squad for Saturday's rematch with Australia.

O'Brien was the 24th man for the first Test and was, for most pundits, the unluckiest player in the touring party.

He turned in another impressive performance against in Melbourne yesterday before being withdrawn with 25 minutes to play.

It's been suggested that he was being spared in anticipation of being involved on Saturday, a possibility Gatland certainly alluded to.

"The message to the players was (that) it was an opportunity for them to go out there and be a part of the 23 for Saturday – or even part of the starting team," said Gatland after the game.

"We had the conversation as coaches that had Kurtley Beale been successful with one of those kicks at the end of the game and we lost – would we have been discussing what sort of changes we needed?

"We thought we might have made a few changes under those circumstances, so we articulated that to the squad tonight that their tour wasn't over, that there are chances for people to be involved either this weekend or the following weekend.


"We've been consistent in that from the very start," he added.

O'Brien's performance against Melbourne will test that theory as will Conor Murray's. The Irish scrum-half had another impressive outing and earned words of praise from the coach after the game.

"We've been very pleased with Conor Murray; I thought he had another good game today," he said.

"Ben Youngs didn't give the greatest performance against the Brumbies, but he was good coming off the bench tonight.

"We've got different nines who have all added to the squad and who are all real quality. It gives us a nice choice in terms of who we start with and who sits on the bench at the weekend."

Gatland will also make a decision on whether or not Lions number 806, Tom Court, will stay with the squad in the coming days.

"It's something we need to talk about.

"Initially he was just brought in as short-term cover and it was a relatively easy trip bringing him in from Brisbane," said Gatland.

"It is something we will decide in the next 24 hours; whether we've got enough cover in that position."

Both the Lions and Australia name their starting teams in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Irish Independent

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