'Groundhog' Tipuric to replace injured Warburton in series decider
JUSTIN TIPURIC'S reputation as a more conventional 'groundhog' is expected to see him replace the injured Sam Warburton in the Lions team to play Australia in Saturday's third and deciding Test in Sydney.
Tipuric will see off the challenge of Sean O'Brien for the role, with the versatile 'Tullow Tank' likely to have to content himself with a place on the bench again.
O'Brien (below) offers cover across all three back-row positions and is seen by Lions management as the ideal impact replacement.
Tipuric is more like Australia's openside flanker Mike Hooper. He will not be expected to carry a lot of ball but will try to be as close to the ball as possible at all times and will work feverishly to win and turnover possession at the breakdown.
Unfortunately, the Lions have lost Warburton to injury after his best game on tour. The captain was excellent in Saturday's second Test before having to depart with a torn hamstring.
His injury was confirmed yesterday and he has been ruled out of the deciding game. He will, however, remain with the squad for the final week.
"It is incredibly disappointing to be ruled out of the tour through injury as we head to Sydney for the deciding match," said Warburton.
"I wish the team all the best and hope I can play some part in the build-up this week. I am confident that the boys can finish the job off and secure the series win."
Tipuric and O'Brien had been the in-form flankers in the lead-up to the opening Test and coach Warren Gatland's perseverance with Warburton drew some criticism. Now Tipuric will be expected to take over as the chief breakdown expert.
Tipuric learned his trade from New Zealand flanker Marty Holah, who is regarded as one of the best openside flankers, when they were both at Ospreys.
It is likely that Dan Lydiate will stay at blind-side flanker, with Tom Croft and O'Brien on the bench again.
The Lions players had a day off yesterday and resume training at their Noosa base today before flying to Sydney on Thursday ahead of Saturday's final Test.