From Paul Morgan, Editor of Rugby World Magazine
THE LIONS GO into the second Test as massive underdogs, because of the way they were dismantled in 50 minutes last weekend and due to the fact that they now move to altitude for the second Test, into the lung-busting conditions in Pretoria, which is (as Shaun Edwards explained) is the toughest place in the world to win a Test match.
Having spent all week with the Lions and seeing the talent the squad contains I would never write them off, as I can see how they can win. But everything, I repeat everything must go right for the Lions to have a chance.
The schedule really hasn’t helped either. The Lions were at sea-level last Saturday and while the Springboks went to altitude on Sunday, to give themselves a few days to get used to the conditions the Lions had to stayed in Cape Town, at sea-level, to play the Emerging Springboks. So another factor is against the Lions chances.
It worries me that the Lions may not be able to stage their multi-phase game plan when the air is a little thinner, so will need more from phases 1-4.
As with every Test match the Lions fate will lie in the physical confrontation. They lost dismally at the scrum last Saturday in Durban and have addressed that by calling up Adam Jones on the tighthead, Matthew Rees at hooker and Simon Shaw in the second row. That will be enough to lock out the scrum and Shaw’s size will definitely equalise things in the lineout.
I am particularly delighted for Shaw, who has played 18 times for the Lions, but never in Test match until Saturday.
The only thing in their favour is that Ian McGeechan has never lost a second Test as Lions coach. Perhaps the siege mentality/we are all written off will work in their favour.
History certainly won’t……As the British & Irish Lions attempt to reverse their fortunes against the
Springboks in Saturday’s second Test it’s worth noting that to be successful
they will have to do what no other Lions team has done before and come from
behind to win a Test series in South Africa.
Statistics taken from The Official British & Irish Lions Miscellany reveal that
the Lions have lost the first Test against South Africa five times and gone on
to lose the series each time. Indeed in the 14 series in which the Lions have
lost the opening rubber they have only come from behind twice, and both of these
reversals were against Australia (1899 and 1989).
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The key to a Lions series victory has usually been to win the first Test and in
the 12 times they have achieved this they have won nine series, drawn one and
lost two (to New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001).
But I would love to know what you think will happen in Pretoria. Get your predicting caps on and go for it!