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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019
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'If the Lions don't win tomorrow, I fear for the series' - David Wallace

The former Ireland Lions flanker believes the second Test will top the first for sheer, nerve-shredding tension.

Leigh 'Matrix' Halfpenny leaps to support Jamie Heaslip.
Leigh 'Matrix' Halfpenny leaps to support Jamie Heaslip.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THERE IS A SENSE that the Second Test is a gimme because there is always another game after that to tie up the series. Nonetheless, I don’t think the Lions will be anywhere near as complacent as they were last week.

The Lions were seen as clear favourites last week and yet were hanging on at the end. The Wallabies were unlucky with injuries, lost their kicker in the first minute and had Kurtley Beale slipping up right at the death. It was all a bit of a disaster for them but yet they were right in it up until the final whistle.

The Lions will feel like they lost it last week. You saw the relief at the final whistle but there were no big scenes of celebration in the dressing room afterwards. This, I feel, is their last chance. If they let Australia back in to this series the whole thing is likely to get away from them.

The Lions squad for this week has a stronger look to it. Having Tommy Bowe back will be a big help and Mako Vunipola will provide more carries. Warren Gatland has gone for brute force ball carriers. Tom Croft did well last week and is unfortunate to drop down to the bench but it is good to see Sean O’Brien on the bench. He will be the perfect impact sub off the bench but it will be interesting to see where he’ll come on in the backline.

The fitness of the Wallabies could yet be a telling advantage. Before Israel Folau’s first try, the Lions had went through about 25 phases and you could tell when Will Genia made his break that Mike Phillips and Alun Wyn Jones were out of puff. Phillips played right into Australia’s hands. They showed him enough of a gap and swallowed him up when he went for it.

Having the roof closed at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne plays into Australia’s hands. I’ve played under a roof before and the oxygen is rarer. It is like playing at altitude.

No repeats of 2001

I’d like for the Lions to make hay while the sun shines; win the series by taking the Second Test and prevent any momentum swings.

In 2001, we won the First Test by a nice margin and it felt comfortable. In the Second Test, the Australians, helped by the flood of home fans cancelling out that Sea of Red, caught us on the hop and we never regained our footing in the series.

It helps the Lions, then, having Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell around. Paul is there as an informal and unofficial coach but he will know that he has to relinquish some responsibility to Geoff Parling and let him take the lead in training. Paul will give all the advice and knowledge he has but he knows Parling is a good player and will relinquish that control. Brian will have drilled it into the lads this week that it is now or never. Close it out when you’re on top.

It will be slightly harder for the Lions this week without O’Connell’s presence at the lineout and breakdown. Last week was too close for comfort, with injuries, immense tries, last-minute kicks, everything. This week, I fear, it will be even closer again.

*TheScore.ie will be liveblogging all the Lions v Australia Second Test action from 10am on Saturday.

Wallace

David Wallace runs Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe at the Crescent Shopping Centre. You can follow the latest goings on at the shop here or on Twitter @MrSimmsCrescent

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About the author:

David Wallace  / Former Munster and Ireland flanker.

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