Saturday 24 February 2018

Sexton: Tommy Bowe is just mad for the ball

Jonathan Sexton of the Lions celebrates scoring the Lions first try
Jonathan Sexton of the Lions celebrates scoring the Lions first try

Johnathan Sexton has revealed that his Lions and Ireland team mate Tommy Bowe is champing at the bit for tomorrow's second test after making a miraculous recovery from a broken bone in his hand.

He was very happy that prolific Irish winger from Monaghan gets a start on Saturday despite having fractured a bone in his hand during the victory over the Reds earlier in the tour.

"I'm delighted he's back," said Sexton. "To break a bone in your hand and then to play three weeks later is a pretty phenomenal recovery.

"He thought his tour was over and he was pretty upset about it. For him to turn it around I'm delighted for him.

"He'll bring a lot to us in terms of his ability in the air, his strike running and his work off the ball.

"He'll be calling moves on himself all day, he's mad for the ball."

The British and Irish Lions expect Australia to throw everything bar the kitchen sink at them in Saturday's second test but the tourists are also hoping to show what they can do in attack, Jonny Sexton added today.

The Lions held on for a 23-21 victory in the first test in Brisbane last week, despite being oustcored two tries to one, and Sexton thinks they have a point to prove at Docklands Stadium.

"I don't think we really got to implement our gameplan last week, we didn't show too much," the Irishman said.

"We'll look to try to attack them this week. We didn't really get the chance last week, we'll have a go this week."

The Lions played some brilliant attacking rugby in their tour matches and the threat Sexton poses to defences with front-foot ball has in large part earned him the flyhalf role over England's Owen Farrell for the test matches.

On Saturday, he will have a different halfback partner in Ben Youngs after the Englishman was preferred to hulking Welsh scrumhalf Mike Phillips.

"It'll be different, but they have a lot similarities," the 27-year-old said.

"They're obviously different in size, but they're both pretty abrasive, even though they're different sizes.

"They both want to play a quick game. It's not going to take that much getting used to. I've had a good few days with Ben. Hopefully we'll click. He brings a lot to the game in terms of his running ability.

"We had a little bit of game time at the end of the (Queensland) Reds game. We've had all week training. It's been good. We're pretty much in the same wavelength now."

Sexton undertakes the place-kicking duties for both Leinster and Ireland but the form with the tee of Welsh flyhalf Leigh Halfpenny has made that part of his game largely surplus to requirements so far for the Lions.

"It's different," he said. "I worked all year with this in the back of my mind. It just hasn't happened. Every minute I've been on the pitch, Leigh has been on the pitch. You can't argue with his stats.

"I continue to work hard in case Leigh goes down or has a bad day. I'm working like I am kicking. Obviously I'd like to."

 Sexton's opposite number on Saturday will again be James O'Connor, who will be making only his third start at flyhalf for the Wallabies.

Despite O'Connor not having the best of matches in Brisbane last week, Sexton believes he remains a threat.

"He's a handful when he's got ball in hand and he's running at guys," he added.

"We made sure we shut him down. Think we did an okay job. There were times when he got halfway through. That's his big strength.

"I thought he did well, obviously missed a couple of shots at goal but I don't think he was planning to take the kicks. He's played a lot of positions, he's settled at 10 now and he'll only getting better going forward."

Sexton said he would love to wrap up the series 2-0 on Saturday, if only for fellow Irishmen and Lions stalwarts Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell, who have never tasted a series victory in the famous red shirt.

Meanwhile, Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio believes the British and Irish Lions will complete a series victory over Australia tomorrow - if they improve on their performance in the first Test.

The tourists enter tomorrow's clash at the Etihad Stadium with an epic 23-21 victory over the Wallabies in the bank, but have still made five changes, three of them unenforced.

Dallaglio, who played all three Tests in South Africa 16 years ago when the Lions last won a series, insists the adjustments are evidence that head coach Warren Gatland realises they must raise the bar.

"There's only one thing worse than playing a Springbok and that's playing a wounded Springbok," Land Rover ambassador Lawrence Dallaglio said.

"You always have to be wary of a wounded animal and on this occasion it's a wounded Wallaby. They'll be very dangerous because it's all or nothing.

"The intensity Australia showed last weekend was outstanding for a side that hasn't played for six months.

"The team selection for the Lions is almost as if they had lost last weekend because Warren Gatland is clearly saying by the changes he's made that the performance wasn't good enough.

"The Lions know they will have to be better if they are to win tomorrow and there will be no complacency at all.

"There are a lot of key drivers there - people like Brian O'Driscoll who are desperate to be part of a winning Lions series.

"Having gone 1-0 ahead rather fortuitously, they have an incredible opportunity to close out the series and do something that history says is very rarely done.

"The Lions have the momentum and that is key - they have two bites of the cherry now. There's a lot of pressure on the Wallabies."

Dallaglio, who won 88 caps for England and three for the Lions, admires Australia's approach to losing.

"Australia back themselves even in defeat. They have this 'can do' attitude. In New Zealand or South Africa Saturday's defeat would have been the end of the world," he said.

"But Australia have shrugged their shoulders and said it was a great game, we just came off second best. They'll always find a way to improve, which is why the Lions will have to play better.

"Australia will go away and think about it sensibly rather than react in a way other sides would."


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