He captained the Lions in 2005, has four winning tips so far on the Paddy Power Blog, and knows how to ice stake. The legend that is Gareth Thomas calls the second test for Australia, but find out why…
It’s one ballsy call by Warren Gatland. Granted, Mike Phillips did not have a great game in Brisbane but nobody saw Ben Youngs coming in at scrum-half. Not me, anyway. I’d have picked Munster’s Conor Murray which would have given an Irish spine to the Lions. But logic goes out the window with Lions selectors, from what I’ve learned. The only reason I can see behind it is to counter-act the pace of the Australian No9, Will Genia, and get more ball to Johnny Sexton, quicker.
Why Bowe will make a difference
As I said before, Mike made some kicking errors in the first game which individually at this level are unacceptable but we may be measuring him against the standard of his opponent who was the outstanding player on the field. Of the other changes, Tommy Bowe coming back is a no-brainer. He was in my original starting XV but broke a bone in his hand playing against the Queensland Reds just two weeks ago. Miracle recovery stuff. Bowe scores. He doesn’t make mistakes. Right now, he’s fresher than anyone else in the team. A hand injury doesn’t affect the rest of your fitness, or mean you don’t train, so this guy will be chomping at the bit to get at the Aussies.
Vunipola is a dangerous player
Next up, Mako Vunipola. He’s a dangerous, dangerous player. He has that explosiveness the Lions were missing in the first test – he was unlucky not to be selected – and he gets hand on ball. I know too that Warren Gatland is a huge fan of Dan Lydiate. Tom Croft did nothing wrong, but if you want a man for a shit fight, Lydiate is ideal. He’s a farmer who’s not afraid to get hurt. A workhorse, not a showpony, and a good call for the game on Saturday. The second test is a strange game, from what I remember in 2005. You’re just recovering and want fresh ideas. But it turns into an ‘arm wrestle’ of a game. The more you know your opponent the less the margins for error. And, it might sound like a cliché, but keeping your concentration for the full game is the most important thing. On Saturday, one error could cost either side the game. This will be the difference. It only takes one second to switch off.
Australia will have learned more about the Lions than the other way around. Given the manner of the defeat, the injuries, and the fact there’s nothing worse than a redundant third test I’m sticking with my original prediction for Australia to win this, but about five points. If you’re looking for a man to go over the line, Jamie Heaslip, if he gets that bit more space with Vunipola coming in.
Gareth Thomas’ 25/1 tip: Australia to win and Heaslip to score anytime > bet on it here
Halfpenny; Bowe, O’Driscoll, Davies, North, Sexton, B Youngs; Vunipola, T Youngs, A Jones, AW Jones, Parling, Lydiate, Heaslip, Warburton (capt). Substitutes: Hibbard, Grant, Cole, Croft, O’Brien, Murray, Farrell, Cuthbert.
Beale; Folau, Ashley-Cooper, Leali’ifano, Tomane; O’Connor, Genia; Robinson, Moore, Alexander, Douglas, Horwill (capt), Mowen, Palu, Hooper. Replacements: Fainga’a, Slipper, Kepu, Simmons, Gill, Phipps, Horne, Mogg.