Lions won’t risk players in game against Brumbies
Gatland willing to sacrifice Canberra clash for greater gain against Wallabies
Rory Best becomes the third Irish captain of the tour but it says everything about how the frontline three-quarters – at any rate those left standing – are being wrapped in cotton wool that tomorrow’s quartet are all tour debutants. Three were still airborne en route to Australia when the line-up was announced and a fourth landed on Saturday.
In addition to Williams, the newly arrived Billy Twelvetrees will be joined by two other weekend call-ups from England’s tour of Argentina, Brad Barritt and Christian Wade. Given they will have one captain’s run together and will still be suffering from jetlag, it’s safe to presume that this will be Gatland’s most vulnerable and ill-prepared team of his coaching career, never mind the tour.
“I’ve said all along, this tour was about the Test match, and if we dropped one or two games along the way I was willing to sacrifice that to win the Test series. No one is going to remember if we win all the other matches and lose the Test series.
“It’s all about winning the Test series so you’ve got to be prepared to make a couple of tough calls and if that means dropping a game or two on the way because of that, we’re prepared to do that. If we don’t turn up on Saturday with the best possible chance and everyone fit and fresh, I don’t think it’s fair on the rest of the squad or the players or that jersey.”
It’s not the strongest Brumbies team Jake White has ever put on the pitch either. Two of their seven Wallabies members, Peter Kimlin and Scott Sio, have been released for this game but their bench features a couple of debutants in props Chris Cocca and Jean-Pierre Smith, whose twin brother Ruan will start at tighthead.
“That’s the strongest line-up we can put on the field,” said White.
The story of the match is Clyde Rathbone who played South African under-20s before migrating to Australia with his family, whereupon the Brumbies picked him up. He became a Wallaby but suffered from depression which cost him his Test career, but he’s fought his way back this season after missing three years in the game.