The defeat against the Brumbies was sadly one of the most inept performances in Lions history. It will have little bearing on Saturday’s test match, but it showed the heavy downside of Gatland’s policy of cutting selection corners for the benefit of the test team.
The Lions coach decided to travel without adequate cover at 10/12. That meant that Stuart Hogg, poor bloke, had to slide into fly-half against the Brumbies. The Scot is a fine full back but he cannot be expected to play 10 for the Lions without adequate preparation.
The back three was a shambles. The unfortunate Christian Wade just isn’t ready for rugby at this level, but the injuries prompted the Lions management into short term replacements. Some of those injuries may have been avoided if Rob Kearney had not gone on tour with an injury.The starting front row’s deficiencies were horribly exposed when the replacements came off the bench. A supine Lions scrum suddenly became a powerhouse. The Lions midweek team have paid for the management’s apparent dislike of Andrew Sheridan.
The Lions also took too many 7’s on tour and not enough out and out dogs in the back row. Tom Wood would have been invaluable on a night like this, but he was left at home. I am also still to be convinced that Faletau was a better bet than Ben Morgan. The clearing out at rucks and mauls of the Lions back five was awful.One hopes that the midweek boys can rally. They need a strong captain – it was hard not to feel for Rory Best – but it is difficult to see that man in the tour party selected.
Warren Gatland has gambled all on the test team. He deliberately avoided selecting the sort of versatile players that have helped out on previous Lions tours. He also went without taking either the Scotland or England captains, either of who might have rallied the midweek team. It was a big call. Yes, Gatland has been unlucky with injuries, but no more so than the previous Lions to tour Australia. If the Lions win the test series, all will be forgiven. But Tuesday night in Brisbane was a bad day in their history.