Three wishes unlikely to be granted but Lions can grasp long-awaited Test series success
3 That the Lions finally win a Test series
Of the countries the Lions play against, Australia are definitely the lesser of the three just now. A Lions tour to South Africa or New Zealand in the summer wouldn’t fill you with a huge amount of confidence but there will be a lot of players on the plane heading south in the summer who know what it’s like to have beaten Australia.
The Aussies just don’t present the same physical challenge as either of the other two countries. They don’t have the same heft up front.
They have some great individual players and some brilliant talent behind the scrum. But the Lions will go there knowing this is the best chance of a series win that they’ve had in a long time. The 2001 series was one they left behind them and they must see this as a chance to make up for that.
There’s no real point in predicting the Lions team today because so much water has to go under the bridge between now and the summer. But it’s clear that Warren Gatland has to pick players who have a real physical presence. Think back to how Ireland dominated Australia in the World Cup, in the set-piece and around the fringes.
If Australia get on the front foot, they can be superb and they’re unbelievably dangerous. So the Lions need to pick players who will be mobile and aggressive and who will push them back continually.
Will It Happen?
This one I’m reasonably confident about. It would a bit of a disaster if the Lions didn’t win this series because it’s set up for them. If they get the balance right in the selections, if Gatland picks the likes of Johnny Sexton, Jamie Roberts, Stephen Ferris and so on, they have a great chance.
Of course, injuries will have a say in the matter between now and then but even so, it will be a huge missed opportunity if they don’t go there and win.
Australia will be well riled up by the time the Test series comes around because all the talk will be of what a great chance the Lions have of beating them. So it won’t be easy. Whatever happens earlier in the year the Lions offer the best chance for success.