The raw slabs of red meat are warming up. Much has been said about how undercooked the British and Irish Lions are with the first Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane just a week away, but they need not worry.
Preparation is the least of their concerns. In the space of seven days, fired-up Waratahs and Reds have attacked the Lions in swarms. They have done so with an intensity, if not quality, that is the equal of many Test matches.
The scoreline may have been lopsided, but it certainly beats the opposed training sessions that Robbie Deans’ men have been facing in training camps from Coogee to Caloundra.
Not many international teams have to face a 135-kilogram second-row forward charging into the defensive line. The Lions will be thankful they do not have to contend with a player the size of Will Skelton this week as the Tahs forward eats metres like a minotaur devours maidens.
The Wallabies will not play like the Tahs and Reds. The ball will be more on foot and less in hand, and penalty goals will not be eschewed. But there was much to learn from the pivots on Saturday night.
Waratahs No.10 Bernard Foley is in a similar mould to James O’Connor. The biggest threat both players offer is footwork.
For the first 20 minutes, Foley was content to lay off to bigger runners in midfield, but once the Lions forwards were tired and caught out wide, he attacked the line.
O’Connor will do the same in Brisbane, except he is a stronger runner in contact and will have Will Genia on the inside and Kurtley Beale running off either shoulder. Used judiciously, it’s a dangerous cocktail.
The playmaker role has been a problem for the Lions ,more so for the scarcity of stocks than the relative inexperience of Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton and Englishman Owen Farrell. Sexton has the inside run. He controlled the first 50 minutes before coach Warren Gatland pulled out the cotton wool. There was nothing flashy but it was solid. It’s a gear Quade Cooper could use from time to time.
Sexton comes to these shores with a big reputation. The Irishman’s game is expected to flourish with better players inside and out, but potential is a nebulous notion.
Sexton will have one advantage over O’Connor next week, his teammates will be better prepared than the Wallabies.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.