Australia vs British & Irish Lions third test preview

Warren Gatland is the leading candidate to coach the British and Irish Lions next year

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is banking on Wales’ success
in the Six Nations and the Welsh combinations in order to win the first Lions
series win in 16 years against the Wallabies on Saturday.

With the series tied at 1-1 after two pulsating encounters, head coach Warren
Gatland has taken the controversial decision to drop Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll
and reunite crack centre pair Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts among a record-equalling
10-strong Welsh representation in the starting side.

Gatland has nailed his colours to the flag by dropping and if the Lions lose he will take the blame for the tour failure almost entirely. If the Lions win few will praise Gatland.

But while O’Driscoll, 34, was dumped from a side he was expected to captain,
in a contrasting move Australia have recalled George Smith, a veteran with 110
Test caps after four years in the international wilderness.

Davies and Roberts are among a sizeable contingent of Welsh players from this
year’s Six Nations championship-winning team in the Sydney starting line-up
for the tourists, with an 11th on the bench, in a team captained by Welsh lock
Alun Wyn Jones for the first time.

The last time Wales had 10 men in a Lions team was the first Test against Australia
in Brisbane in 1950, which the Lions won 19-6.

Australia coach Robbie Deans believes the Wallabies have saved their best for
last following a come-from-behind 16-15 win over the Lions in last weekend’s
gruelling second Test in Melbourne to level the series after the tourists won
the Brisbane opener 23-21.

He has gambled by selecting 32-year-old openside flanker Smith , without a
match for six weeks following a hamstring injury, and relegating number seven
Michael Hooper to the replacements bench for the Wallabies’ most important match
since the 2003 World Cup final with England.

The Kiwi is banking on Smith’s experience and composure under fire to push
the Wallabies over the line.

“This will be our best performance, without a doubt. I think that’s been
coming,” Deans said.

“If you look at the second Test, we started to get some rhythm. Combinations
started to kick in. The Lions will intend to deny us that momentum, but either
way this will be our best performance.

“We feel that the combination of experience and fresh legs that George
brings is the right way to go. His expertise in the contact zone, where timing,
judgement and physicality is everything, is going to be critical.”

New Zealander Gatland, who has taken a break from his role as Wales head coach
to lead the Lions, made five changes to a winning side between the first and
second Tests and a further six changes after losing last weekend so he has shown
almost no continuity.

Apart from O’Driscoll, who has 133 international caps, Lions scrum-half Ben
Youngs, his brother and hooker Tom Youngs, prop Mako Vunipola, and number eight
Jamie Heaslip have all been dropped while skipper Sam Warburton is out with
a hamstring injury.

Gatland brought back the fit-again trio of Roberts, scrum-half Mike Phillips
and prop Alex Corbisiero, while Wales number eight Toby Faletau will win his
first Lions cap in a back row that sees Sean O’Brien move off the bench to claim
Warburton’s spot.

“It all comes down to Saturday – the winner takes all. We know we can
leave nothing in the tank and that only a complete performance will get us across
the line,” said Gatland.

“Picking this team was not easy and ultimately, with several players available
after recovering from injury, the head overruled the heart in many selection
decisions.

“Brian O’Driscoll is a great player and has had a wonderful career but
for the final Test we just felt Jamie Roberts’s presence offe

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