Belfast Telegraph

Sean O’Brien must play if British Lions are to rescue the series

By Eric Miller

As I sat down on Saturday to watch the game, I must admit that a tiny part of me wanted to hold on to the legacy of 1997 and remain a member of the last winning Lions tour.

As a consequence, I was somewhat surprised at myself after the game when I was left agitated and uncomfortable that this group of players had not taken advantage of a golden opportunity to make history again.

Deep down, we know it's so important that the Lions win this series. The Australian adventure has fallen short in many ways, mainly due to a lack of quality opposition throughout the tour.

Dare I say, the Lions' brand has eclipsed the product on offer. The long journey taken by the raft of followers to Australia's distant shores is testament to that, however, one can hardly say they are getting their money's worth at this juncture.

Coach Warren Gatland, yet again, is at a pivotal moment; his practical, predictable and defensive approach has not worked.

If I was one of the players I would be seething inside. With their noses in front in the series, one would have expected the Lions to throw down the gauntlet to the Aussies who clearly look as if they are approaching a transitional period in terms of their own coaching set-up.

They were ripe for the taking, but the Lions were hamstrung by a fear of losing, a lack of artillery and the management's failure to let them play heads-up rugby.

And without more variation and a little less structure, the Lions will lose again this weekend.

The lineout yet again failed to provide a solid platform for the tourists. Without many ball-carrying options up front, the likes of George North, Leigh Halfpenny and Tommy Bowe could not get into the game nearly as much as they wanted to.

There were positives for the Lions but they must change their approach.

If they fail in that regard then they must pick the right players to make the most of the limited game-plan they have adopted.

Injured captain Sam Warburton will be missed. He was outstanding on Saturday and stood tall among his peers.

However, his absence may just open the door for the likes of 'Tullow Tank' Sean O'Brien, Toby Faletau and Richie Gray. They can provide a platform to really put the Aussies on the back foot and ensure better ball for Jonny Sexton and the men behind.

Sexton has been solid without being outstanding, but that could change if he is given more to work with from his front eight.

One senses that things may open up next week. That could favour the Aussies but if the Lions can come out of their shells then we will have a game on our hands.

The commitment from the players has been second to none – no one is questioning their stomach for the fight.

They now need the management to show just as much courage by changing the personnel.

Belfast Telegraph


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