Injured O’Connell agrees to request to remain on with Lions
Munster man intends to still play a part as Warren Gatland’s men bid for series glory
Lydiate, captain for the night, did his thing, and led an impressive defensive effort which yielded not a point and pleased Gatland no end, and saw him lead the tackle count, as ever, with 15.
Given how hard the Wallabies are likely to come at the Lions on Saturday, a horses-for-courses policy could see Lydiate promoted from the bench to the starting line-up.
O’Brien was one of five try -scorers who strained every sinew and played well without making any big busts. With George Smith possibly being promoted to the Wallabies’ bench, this could help force the Lions’ hand, for O’Brien would give them similar cover. It could even be that Tom Croft remains in the match day squad as cover for the back five.
As for the backs, Tommy Bowe should return, presuming he’s fully fit, in place of Alex Cuthbert. The latter could even miss out on the bench, given the robust return to fitness and form of Manu Tuilagi against the Rebels as the likeliest line buster, but Cuthbert would seem to add more balance.
Intriguingly, Gatland raised the prospect of a change at scrumhalf when admitting: “The hard thing for Mike Phillips is that he’s had that knee which has been troubling him all tour. We’ve been very pleased with Conor Murray; I thought he had another good game today.
“Ben Youngs didn’t give the greatest performance against the Brumbies, but he was good coming off the bench tonight. We’ve got different nines who have all added to the squad and who are all real quality. It gives us a nice choice in terms of who we start with and who sits on the bench at the weekend.”
Yet it’s hard to envisage Phillips, one of Gatland’s favourite players and one of the Lions’ key men, being jettisoned.
All will be confirmed tomorrow, as will Robbie Deans’ selection, which may not be anything like as radically altered as first envisaged after three of his backs were stretchered off and a fourth departed before the end last Saturday.
The pack may well be unchanged, and having spent so much of their build-up with James O’Connor as outhalf, to change now would be a radical move, all the more so as the alternative, Kurtley Beale, can now be accommodated at full-back for the concussed Berrick Barnes.
With Christian Leali’ifano expected to recover from his concussion, and the redoubtable Adam Ashley Cooper, who has played 76 of the Wallabies last 83 matches, having trained yesterday, it’s possible the only other change will be on the left wing, with Joe Timone coming in.
SECOND TEST – LIONS POSSIBLE XV
15 Leigh Halfpenny (Wales); 14 Tommy Bowe (Ireland), 13 Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), 12 Jonathan Davies (Wales), 11 George North (Wales); 10 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), 9 Mike Phillips (Wales); 1 Mako Vunipola (England), 2 Tom Youngs (England), 3 Adam Jones (Wales), 4 Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales), 5 Geoff Parling (England), 6 Dan Lydiate (Wales), 7 Sam Warburton (Wales), 8 Jamie Heaslip (Ireland).
Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Wales), Ryan Grant (Scotland), Dan Cole (England), Tom Croft (England), Seán O’Brien (Ireland), Ben Youngs (England), Owen Farrell (England), Alex Cuthbert (Wales).