Former Wales and Lions captain Gareth Thomas and now tipping expert for Paddy Power. He discusses how he thinks the back-row holds the key to success in the third test against Australia.
In sport hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I’ve never been coached by Warren Gatland. I’ve never even met the guy but my thing is that it’s a ballsy call in dropping Brian O’Driscoll. Great coaches and great players make ballsy calls. As much negativity has come from it, if I was a player now all this negativity would fire me up no end. So in a way it’s a good thing.
All of a sudden you’ve got players fired up big time because they want to prove so many people wrong. I bet, knowing Drico like I do, that he’s in there firing up the players like crazy as well. What people are forgetting is that Drico played two of the three test games and he can still be a big part in winning a test series, which he has never achieved. As disappointed as he may have been when he found out he wasn’t picked he’s going to want to have that on his CV.
From the Australian point of view everything in the papers is about the selections and I’m sure they’re thinking that this is quite good. Drico’s not playing, he’s a top player, maybe we’re in with a shout. Though they won’t be relaxed, they might be thinking there’s some friction going on in the Lions camp, possibly there’s a split in the camp. This works in the favour of the Lions players who will take to the field on Saturday.
I’m not buying in to the talk about this being a Welsh team which will play a Welsh style. Gatland has gone there with a British and Irish Lions game plan and they wouldn’t have trained as hard as they have for this constant amount of time to all of a sudden put the breaks on and go to the five guys starting who aren’t Welsh, you’re going to have to accept this way of playing. That isn’t going to happen. You may have combinations, like with George North and Leigh Halfpenny, where they do some things instinctively because of how they know each other as players. Game-plan wise, if there’s a change it’s because they’ve practised it this week and everybody is okay with it. They might try to chuck something at the Aussies they may not be expecting. But it’s not going to be purposely built around the fact that 10 welsh players are on there.
It’s a physical team so you don’t go in there with a physical team and decide to play Barbarians style rugby. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Davies and Roberts are going to be setting up targets up the middle. Mike Phillips is going to be as physical as hell around the break-downs as always. Sean O’Brien, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau are very physical players and are good at being physical. You don’t tell somebody to stop doing what they’re good at and play completely differently.
They are going to try to batter and bash them. The games up until now have all been physical. The contact areas have been brutal. You know Australia are going to come with a physical approach to the scrum, the lineout and the ruck.
This Lions back-row is mouth-watering to be honest. They’re probably really good buddies having been on the midweek team and sitting back and watching the big guns play in the test matches. Now they’ve got a chance, not just individually, but as a unit. This will help the Lions win the physical battle.
When your back is against the wall and people are doubting you it’s amazing the extra physical edge you can find in your game. You can never run faster but you can hit a little harder when somebody doubts you.
Because of all the shit that’s going on at the moment there’s something in me which says they’re going to play like they’ve never played before for 80 minutes.
I’m going to go for quite a convincing win and seeing as it’s the last game I’m going to put my cock on the block and predict the Lions to win 18-7.
Winning Margin bet
Gareth Thomas has had four correct tips in his columns for the Paddy Power Blog on the Lions tour, including a 20/1 shot in the first test.