Lions may tick all the boxes but be wary of underdogs Australia
History shows the Wallabies are always capable of rising to the biggest challenge
Bran O’Driscoll offers a potent threat in the Lions’ backline. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Three Olympic games have come and gone in the long years since Australia defeated the Lions in the third Test at the Sydney Olympic Stadium on July 14, 2001.
Since that day the Wallabies and New Zealand have battled 36 times. If the fight for the Bledisloe Cup is special then the opportunity to be part of the battle for the Tom Richards Trophy is a gift.
Chance has seen three generations of Australian players finish their careers without the opportunity to measure their character in a Test match against the Lions.This week, a special few will etch their name into folklore and experience a Lions-Australia match.
Test match week is special. It is impossible to describe. It has to be lived to truly comprehend the adrenalin-filled experience. Every day your senses are assailed.
The intoxicating smell of the cut grass on the lined and manicured field and the pungent, moist and earthy scent of honest sweat.
The visual pallet of colour of the team uniforms. The scarlet, white, green and blue contrasting with the “wattle” green and gold of the Wallabies.
The silence of the team bus, with an atmosphere dripping of anxiety, energy, promise and the fear of failure.
The reverberating, deafening roar of the crowd in the cathedral-like stadium, so loud that at times players cannot hear their team-mates’ calls only a metre away.
It is a dream that is a reality. In this vivid dream you are totally alive, only time is your enemy.
In the days leading up to the Test, time appears to have slowed. The hours hang heavy on the shoulders of the combatants as they endure the countdown to kick-off.
Then, as if in an instant, the game is done.
On Sunday morning after the match, with all the passion spent, the time appears to have raced by. You replay the images of the match in your mind and they flicker like the vision from a speeding time-lapse camera. It is an unreal experience.
Like the players’ youth, it is over so quickly. The match, laden with so much expectation, excitement and opportunity is gone forever, never to return.
As in life, the winning will go to those who grab their opportunity.
The Lions know they should win.
They are the better prepared, the more skilful and the better resourced. Yet the game has so many variables that the Lions cannot control; victory is never assured until you are back in the change room singing the team song.
Despite the overwhelming evidence in the Lions’ favour, the Wallabies believe they have a chance to win. The team is behind, but only a little. They are less prepared, but not by much. They are outgunned. But their passion and courage is equal.