Eales warns Wallabies of Lions effect
April 30, 2013
John Eales' Australia beat Martin Johnson's Lions the last time the Lions toured Australia, in 2001 ©
Former Australia captain John Eales has warned the current Wallabies players that if the Lions form a united squad then winning the Test series will be a phenomenal task.
Eales know exactly what it takes to beat the Lions having captained Australia to a 2-1 Test series win the last time the Lions toured down under in 2001. After they lost the first Test in Brisbane, Joe Roff's intercept try sparked their comeback in the second Test and then Matt Burke's kicking was the decisive factor as the Wallabies took the series at Sydney's Olympic Stadium.
"I've only been on the other side of the fence, but I could imagine one of the most exciting things about a Lions Tour is actually being part of that bonding," Eales said. "When they get together in a few weeks' time and they have that first game in Hong Kong against the Barbarians and then land in Perth, it's about putting a team of players together that are used to playing against each other and developing those common bonds.
"It's not an easy thing because they're used to having this passion against each other, but if you get it right it can be a very powerful motivating force for the team and they'll be doing everything they can to get that right."
In 2001 Eales' opposite number as Lions' captain was England second-row Martin Johnson. This time Wales flanker Sam Warburton has been given the honour and the 1999 World Cup winning skipper can see why coach Warren Gatland chose him for the job.
"Warburton had success leading Wales and he is seen as a guy who is very composed," Eales said. "People look up to him, he gets the best out of his players, he's a forthright guy who seems to have an impact on the style of play the team has and he shows a lot of confidence in his players. He is seen as someone who relates well to referees, relates well to his own team and he certainly doesn't take a backwards step."
"Gatland, who's a bright coach and had success at many different levels, is going to be thinking who is going to be the best captain to pull this team together to have an impact against Australia this time. He would have given that long consideration."
Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll is one player who is back in Australia for a second time. In 2001 he made a huge impact and scored a stunning try in the first Test. While he developed into one of the world's best players in subsequent years, he has yet to experience a winning Lions series.
As the tour is likely to be his last to break that unenviable record, Eales believes that O'Driscoll will be one of the main driving forces.
"(The Lions) always pick a mixture of youth and experience and there will be some guys who have been there and done that many times before; O'Driscoll is one of those guys," Eales said.
"He's going to be very important not only from a playing perspective. He more than holds his own as a player, but also very much from a leadership perspective and being able to bind that team together and learn the lessons of where they fell down in Australia in 2001 so they can be a more potent force back here this year."
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