Five things we learned...from the Waratahs clash
June 16, 2013
"Man, how good was Jonathan Davies?" © Getty Images
The British & Irish Lions' tour marched on with a 47-17 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night.
What did their latest win tell us? And what else did we learn that could impact on the Lions' chances of claiming a series victory over Australia?
BOD is a class act
OK, this may not be news to most given the Irish centre's decade and more at the top of the game but he cemented his place among the greats on Saturday without even lacing up his boots. Wales centre Jonathan Davies was the star of the show against the Waratahs with superb all round display in the No.13 shirt that O'Driscoll is expected to wear for the Test series against Wallabies. Davies had a hand in three of the Lions' tries and grabbed one himself to turn up the heat on his Irish rival but the classy O'Driscoll, who was rested for the game, only had praise for his efforts. Speaking following the game in Sydney, Lions coach Warren Gatland revealed O'Driscoll's reaction on his entrance into the changing room post game: "Man, how good was Jonathan Davies today?" His generosity says so much about the man and the team spirit that Gatland has fostered within the squad.
We're going to need some more stash
The surprise call-up for former Wales and Lions international Shane Williams took the number of additions to the original squad to a record-equalling eight with Rory Best, Alex Corbisiero, Ryan Grant, Billy Twelvetrees, Simon Zebo, Christian Wade and Brad Barritt already drafted in. Our very own historian John Griffiths confirmed that Warren Gatland's squad has now matched the 1980 tour to South Africa when Andy Irvine, Paul Dodge, John Robbie, Steve Smith, Tony Ward, Phil Orr, Ian Stephens and Gareth Williams all got a late call. They have also broken the record for a tour to Australia with seven players - Scott Gibbs, Tyrone Howe, Andy Nicol, Gordon Bulloch, Martin Corry, David Wallace and Dorian West having joined the cause in 2001. The brutal nature of the rugby, at the end of an arduous season, and the understandable number of injuries means that the Lions will have to go bigger when they venture to New Zealand in 2017 because a 37-man squad simply is not enough. Maybe the much-maligned Sir Clive Woodward had something in 2005?
History has a habit of repeating itself
Rob Andrew (1989), Martin Johnson (1993), Martin Corry (2001), Ryan Jones (2005) and Tom Croft (2009) were all late additions to Lions tours who went on to play pivotal roles in the Tests - could Simon Zebo be about to join that illustrious list? The Irish winger only arrived in Australia as injury cover a few days ago but wasted no time in staking a claim for a Test berth with a superb showing in Sydney. Concerns over the fitness of Wales winger George North, who looked destined to fill the No.11 jersey against the Wallabies until his hamstring decided otherwise, and Irish speedster Tommy Bowe, who remains sidelined with a hand injury, will have eased with Zebo's lung-busting effort at the Allianz Stadium. Arguably a little unlucky to miss out on selection in the first place, Zebo is fit and firing that may make his selection for next Saturday's showdown a certainty. Perhaps his fancy footwork during this year's Six Nations will not be what his breakthrough season is best remembered for?
Keeping a lid on it
The Waratahs were true to their word. "Anything in red that moves, we'll have a crack at," promised coach Michael Cheika and that's exactly what they did with the Lions subjected to what coach Warren Gatland politely called "little shoulders and charges". The Waratahs were perhaps hoping to incite the sort of reaction witnessed during the Lions' clash with the Barbarians in Hong Kong when fly-half Owen Farrell lashed out at rival Schalk Brits. Any citing at this stage of the tour would serve as a body blow to their Test hopes so the Lions deserve huge amounts of praise for keeping cool while also meeting the physical challenge laid before them. That impressive level of discipline and self-control in the face of some blatant provocation - take a bow Paddy Ryan and Tom Carter - will prove just as valuable as Leigh Halfpenny's prolific right boot and Paul O'Connell's grunt in the weeks to come.
Warburton will spearhead quest for Test glory
Don't be fooled by the reports that Lions captain Sam Warburton is in danger of missing out on selection for the first Test showdown in Brisbane on Saturday - the Wales flanker will be at the heart of their quest for a first Test series victory since 1997. Warburton has risen to the challenge laid down by his in-form back-row rivals while also offering the quiet assurance and leadership that convinced Warren Gatland to make him the Wales skipper when he was just 22-years-old and the Lions captaincy when he was struggling for his best form. The make-up of the Test back-row may take up most of the team selection meeting following the Brumbies clash on Tuesday but Warburton's name will not dominate the debate. In addition, any decision to effectively strip him of the captaincy would hand Australia priceless ammunition in the psychological battle and may also impact on Warburton's confidence and in turn Wales' long-term fortunes - something that Gatland will be wary of with the World Cup looming.
The Waratahs' Tom Carter gets stuck into the Lions' Jonathan Sexton © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton