After Saturday’s hotly contested match between the British and Irish Lions and the Queensland Reds, three key points have risen to the surface in regards to who will face the Lions and how to tackle them later this month.
1. Quade Cooper will not line up in Wallaby colours this year.
While Cooper put it in a solid performance on Saturday night, there were a few glaring errors that may have cost the playmaker as Robbie Deans announced the final 6 players for his 31 man national squad. Cooper was not named in the 6 and perhaps the most eye-opening comment of the whole saga came when Deans commented post-match “Yeah that performance confirmed pretty much where we’re at”.
With the players that Deans has picked and the way Cooper ran the side on Saturday night, it is clear that the style of play Deans is intending to use would not fit the skill set that Cooper offers. Instead of trying to go up and around the Lions, Deans may look to go straight through them, something that Cooper’s style of play may not suit.
2. Ewen Mackenzie has offered one tactic on how to beat the Lions.
The style of play that the Reds used on Saturday night was one which could really trouble the Lions if the right team is picked for the Wallabies. A game plan involving starving the Lions of chances to counter-attack and running the ball from within their own quarter lead to a weary Lions side, creating chances for the Reds outside backs.
Mackenzie may have provided a masterstroke for Deans in the upcoming Test series, but with the squad that Deans has picked, it looks unlikely that he will employ these tactics. Rather a crash and bash style may be chosen.
3. The Lions are vulnerable, yet powerful.
Saturday was the first real test that the Lions faced on the tour so far and it has shown a few areas in which the Lions excel, as well as pointing out some potential weaknesses.
The Lions set piece was immense on Saturday, with the Reds losing seven lineouts from their own throw and having a number of penalties go against them at scrum time. Whilst it was a depleted forward pack for the Reds, the Wallabies will need to get this area of the game spot on if they want to stand a chance come June 22.
The backline for the Lions offered some serious firepower, and had a number of fantastic counter-attacks on the back of some poor kicking from the Reds. The running of George North when he entered the game in the second half, along with the polished game of fly-half Owen Farrell were two performances which will have Deans worried.
However, perhaps the biggest Lions weakness was on display for all to see in the brilliant first-half of Luke Morahan, as he mounted a number of counter-attacking raids from deep within the Reds half. The Lions looked to struggle whenever the Reds ran the ball back at them and this may be an area which Deans will want to employ for the Wallabies.
All in all, it was a great display of Lions rugby on Saturday night, and June 22nd cannot come fast enough.