By Alan Dymock
WHEN SATURDAY comes, it comes with hand grenades in its pockets and it is looking for a hug.
You’ll embrace it. Undoubtedly you will feel every blow and every collision just as keenly as the players. People will try and tell you that it is worse for the players. Maybe it is, but looking at some of these matchups in the game, you will have a seriously rough time on your couch after 11am.
George North v Israel Folau
The most exciting prospect in Britain and Ireland lines up against the man Australia hope is the total package of attacking weapons. As matchups go it is tastier than fillet steak-flavoured ice cream and just as likely to run everywhere.
Within the confines of a Test match, though, it will be interesting to see how they cover each other defensively and how they drag their opponent around the park. Jonny Sexton may well spring North up the middle of the park while James O’Connor and Christian Lealiifano could well hoist high balls up above North’s head in the hope that a springy Folau flies high and gets them.
Forecast: A few clean breaks are coming up that wing, lads
Paul O’Connell v James Horwill
Both men are humble and take their roles seriously without overstating their importance. They are, however, to put it bluntly, both bloody important.
There will be no sly digs at the lineout and no mouthing off in the others face, but these two will come head to head at some point. They will both grind and neither will shirk responsibility when it comes to the uncomfortable work of carrying and linking, but whichever player directs their troops most effectively will have the edge.
Forecast: They will both calm down their compadres when a flair-up inevitably happens, but they will try and smash each other into next week in the collision
Brian O’Driscoll v Adam Ashley-Cooper
There’s still some dancing left in those light Irish feet, but they will be standing opposite the bullish, ceaseless motion of an in-form AAC.
The Australian is known for his earthiness and his straight talking. He says he respects O’Driscoll and therefore he must. That probably means he will test him early on, though, and O’Driscoll never cowers away from a tackle. O’Driscoll will probably look to set a team-mate free first, and therein lies the opportunity for the Lions early doors. The experienced campaigner will be selfless at first; the Wallaby will want to be the strike runner.
Forecast: BOD will be wobbly at some point having made another colossal tackle, but both outside centres will come off the park respecting the other for the various ways they’ve tried to inflict pain on each other legally.
Tom Youngs v Stephen Moore
Moore is a leader for Australia these days and he knows consistency is a more admirable quality in a front-rower than the ability to sprint the length of the park in the time it takes to regret a Snapchat.
However, he faces an energiser bunny who trumps consistency with volume of work. The battle therefore comes down to who can hit clean lineouts and scrummage securely as well as offering a little extra on the big day. Which one will do both?
Forecast: One of these two will draw a swearword from fans. Used in a positive context.
Jonny Sexton v James O’Connor
A fly-half face-off in a Lions v Wallabies opening Test in Australia’s noisiest stadium? We don’t need to say much about this. Both have to take their games to places they have never been before. The experience lies with Sexton, who has started 28 times at fly-half, compared to a solitary occasion by O’Connor, back in December 2011 against Wales.
Forecast: The number of Sexton dummy-switches and O’Connor step-foot flick-and-runs will be through the roof as both men try to create precious space.