By Alan Dymock
TOURING AS a Lion is much less Rock ‘n’ Roll than you would think. The booze is replaced with table-creaking amounts of carbohydrates and fish, the massages are painful affairs unknotting heavy limbs and there are no TVs getting shot out of windows.
There are still stadiums full of shrieking fans, though.
On Saturday, in the second Test against the Wallabies, more than a few fans will be shouting George North’s name. After a scintillating display opposite the equally gifted Israel Folau in the first game in Brisbane, only the dreary and unimaginative would not greedily eye the wing the pair share. However, on the other flank there is a spot up for grabs.
Alex Corbisiero and Jamie Roberts have been ruled out of the second Test, but Tommy Bowe is available for selection.
His recovery from a hand injury has been freakish, with the Ulster speedster defying medical predictions like a sporting Ronnie Wood. Able to continue now, many are yelping for the winger to usurp Alex Cuthbert this weekend.
Cuthbert was caught out with his defensive positioning and fumbled a high kick at a tense time in the Wallabies game last week. Bowe is known for his stability under the ball as well as his innate ability to track back into a good defensive position. However, snap decisions based on the closeness of the first Test could be dangerous.
Warren Gatland and Rob Howley have a tough meeting in store. Bowe has his merits but is out of favour while Cuthbert is in a strange halfway-house between having jitters and being close to his pomp, should things fall into place early on in the next Test. What happens if Cuthbert is dropped for Bowe, the Irishman hurts his hand early, and Cuthbert is on to chase a game hard albeit with bruised pride?
Perhaps Cuthbert is stronger than many give him credit for, yet if Gatland opts not to fiddle, but wants Bowe involved somehow, there is a bench spot to scrap for.
Gatland is a fan of Maitland, praising him for his work rate in the game against the Rebels. He got his first try and has already had a spot on the bench for the Test, if only to warm up and watch.
Then there is Simon Zebo. He is mystical figure, elusive and confident, and in a short space of time he has impressed enough people to generate buzz. Many want players on the bench that can make something out of nothing and Zebo falls into that bracket.
So the choice is whether the coaches want to stick to their plan or shake things up completely.
Decide Tommy Bowe really is ready to rock, and the door is open for Ziggy Zebo to sprinkle some stardust as well. Of course, with so much at stake and so many injuries, it is much more likely that one change for the positive necessitates a Plan B for the tighter, more physical, more attritional approach that could see the Lions close out the series.