The British and Irish Lions touched down in Perth, Australia on Monday to take on the Western Force.
The match proved similar to the Barbarians match in Hong Kong, a ruthless demolition and a win by a plus 50-point margin, although the Force will argue that they fielded a second string line up.
With only three weeks left until the Wallabies June 22nd encounter in Brisbane many questions still remain over the starting 15 Deans will pick, and will it be strong enough to defeat this plethora of talent in the Lion’s squad?
Recent exclusions through injury means that certain starters such as winger Digby Ioane, backrower Scott Higginbotham and lock Sitaleki Timani, will not be taking part in the tests. These losses have dealt the Wallabies chances a severe blow, with the big game experience these players possessed invaluable on the big game stage.
However the question remains, how will the Wallabies defeat the Lions and which players will be key in doing so?
Many of the Lions squad played for their respective countries against Australia in the recent tests in the Northern hemisphere, so will be confident they know what to expect from the Wallabies.
A criticism of the Lions squad is that they are too crash, bang, and don’t concentrate on getting the ball out to their flair players, instead focusing most of their play on the advantage line.
Although not certain to start in the first test, gun centre Manu Tuilagi’s inclusion in the squad adds to that style of play. If the Wallabies can gain the upper hand on the advantage line, they will be halfway towards taking advantage of the game.
Quick turnover ball and counter attacks will provide the unpredictability key to bamboozling the Lions defense.
The Wallabies will be mainly looking to Kurtly Beale (a certainty for final 6 inclusion) and James O’Connor to provide the inspiration from the turnovers, both possessing great speed, agility and attacking intent. With a solid kicking game from O’Connor a must, as we’ve seen with big games kicking can make the difference.
This is where Australia face a big problem. As we’ve seen throughout Deans’s reign, his style of play doesn’t allow for freedom from the individual and is in stark contrast to what may be required to win.
The first test will be telling of this, if the Wallabies go down in Brisbane, will Deans be capable of changing his game plan for the second test?
In most recent games the Wallabies side sits on an average of one try a game.
This shows that the style of play Deans enforces won’t provide many tries or try scoring opportunities and it also shows that in changing the system it probably won’t garner more tries.
So if you can’t change the style, why not change the personnel. Quade Coopers exclusion from the squad could be their downfall, as he is one of those players that could create something out of nothing.
Another X factor in the squad could be the code-hopping superstar Israel Falou. The Lions staff and players will not know as much about Falou as they will the rest of the Wallabies squad. He’s had an impressive start to his rugby career at the Waratahs, being operated at fullback. He is a proven performer on the big stage, having shone through numerous State of Origin games for Queensland, he could well be worth a few crucial points throughout the series.
It seems every week as though there will be new twists and turns throughout the Wallabies squad before the first 15 is announced for the test on the 22nd, and I assume it will be only then that we know if the Wallabies are going to make a series out of this because although not properly tested yet, the Lions at the minute, look red hot!