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Deans ready for Lions challenge

Australia coach Robbie Deans anticipates a gladiatorial contest against the British and Irish Lions in the summer - but he dismissed suggestions the tourists are just "slabs of red meat".

Deans is using Wales' record 30-3 victory over England in the RBS 6 Nations title decider as a key reference point as he prepares the Wallabies for an unprecedented challenge. Fourteen of the Welsh starting line-up from the Millennium Stadium - plus flanker Dan Lydiate - have been selected in a 37-man squad that is not short on power or dynamism.

"That was such a convincing result at 30-3 and clearly from our perspective it was an insight into what's coming, the nature of the game, the intensity, the pace of it," Deans said.

"We look at that as the benchmark. It was brutal and it was relentless for 80 minutes. It was a complete performance. I have no idea where that (red slabs of meat comment) came from. We have a lot of respect for what's coming.

"It will be a fantastic series. The last occasion the Lions were here was in 2001. That was gladiator like and you look at how the body types have changed since then. This one is going to be remarkable. This is the ultimate rugby experience."

It was an Australian newspaper that referred to Gatland picking "slabs of red meat". The Lions management stressed their selection criteria was for players with more to their armoury than just muscle.

England captain Chris Robshaw tops the charts in terms of carries and tackles but he missed out on selection because the Lions need to compete with the Wallabies' athletic opensides.

Deans put Robshaw's omission down to a shift in the balance of the squad which followed Wales' victory over England. But Michael Hooper's performance against Robshaw in the Wallabies' victory over England in November was more significant as the Lions finalised their back-row options.

Deans has also left the door open for Kurtley Beale to be involved against the Lions. The versatile playmaker was banned by the Melbourne Rebels for fighting with a team-mate on the team bus during a recent trip to South Africa.

"He has a long way to go but there is a fair amount of rugby between now and then. There is a possibility he could put himself in the frame," he added.

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