By Sarah Mockford in Perth
A PIPELINE laid in 1903 to transport water from Perth to the goldfields 500km away in Kalgoorlie secured Western Australia’s future; making it feasible to mine meant the state could become self-sustainable. This week in WA rugby circles talk has been of a different type of line – not the white one that players run over when taking the field, but the invisible one that if crossed can result in penalties, cards and bans.
The Lions have long stressed the importance of being disciplined on this tour and their opponents here appear eager to test that resolve. Western Force – their scrum-half Brett Sheehan in particular – have made it clear that they want to make Wednesday’s game “extremely physical” and to ensure the Lions know “they’ve been in a battle”. Sheehan even suggested that Force might take a few pointers from the Barbarians game in Hong Kong as to what got under the skin of the Lions.
Over in the red corner, however, such provocation has been met with a straight bat, Graham Rowntree doing a good impression of cricket’s nightwatchman in the city that houses the WACA. In 1974 the Lions may have famously taken matters into their own hands – or should that be fists?! – with the ’99’ call in South Africa, but the 2013 party have no desire to follow their upper cuts.
“We want to play, we want to be competitive and we want to be physical, but we have to play within the laws,” said Rowntree, the Lions forwards coach. “The best teams and the best players in the world are physical but they get on with their job and aren’t drawn into anything. If you get drawn into anything, you can’t do your job elsewhere.”
The players, too, are following a similar theme. Rory Best – the man called up to the tour after Dylan Hartley not only crossed the line but, as Warren Gatland put it, jumped off the cliff – is not keen to get caught up in any off-the-ball antics.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime – few people get to do it and you want to give it your best,” he said. “Discipline is key. We don’t intend to take a backward step, but we need to be disciplined.”
It’s a fine line to tread – the focus is on fronting up to the challenge presented by a Western Force team of varying reputations but not overstepping the mark from physicality to brutality. The Force might want a fiery encounter, but the Lions are hoping to play it cool – and that should be easier than in Hong Kong given the significant temperature (and humidity) drop!