Nervous? You should be! Despite everything that has been and gone in this Lions test, we are now down to the nerve wracking finale, and who would have thought that we would still be in with a chance of winning this thing? I mean seriously, the amount of debate there has been surrounding not just match day selections, but the Lions team on the whole, you would expect the AB’s to have given us an absolute drubbing in the first two tests and then be ready with the salt shaker to finish off the open wound in the third. I am very glad to say that it has simply never felt that way though. Even in the first test it didn’t feel as though we were being completely dominated by the world’s number one force in rugby; we made them work for that win and work hard for 80 minutes.
Stood in the Westpac last weekend, the tension was unbearable and the risk of either myself or Brian O’Driscoll having a heart attack was probably at its highest it has been for some considerable time, without exerting ourselves at the coalface. What a game, I mean come on, there has been the odd naysayer that has pointed out that NZ played for a considerable period with 14 men, but the Lions also played some of their best rugby when they were also down to 14 men, so pound for pound, minute for minute on the day, the fight was there in both sides. I am proud to say (very proud) that it seemed to me that the Lions just wanted it more, and how many times can you say that about any side who are playing the All Blacks in their own back yard? I can count them on one hand.
Last week was about the culmination of a side that has been put together based on performance over the last six weeks, there has been some frankly leftfield selections made by Warren, but they seem to have come together in a way that has bought out the best in the First XV. The foundation is not exactly what you would call solid, but the play that has been built on it is now world class. I don’t blame Gatland in the slightest for calling up the same match day squad for this weekend, wouldn’t you? Knowing that you have been able to perform at a level to beat the best last week, what’s to say you can’t do it again this week?
What we will see on Saturday will not be just a test of team playing skill and individual performance, as much as it will be a test of every man’s character when their feet hit the turf at Eden Park. If they can summon whatever level of courage, determination and pig headedness was required to win last week, then we will be in for one hell of a game. The AB’s are going to come out of the blocks like a scalded cat, and they will need pulling back from the get go. It’s a case of national pride for them on Saturday, they have not lost a game at Eden Park for 23 years and that is some kind of statistic that I can’t really begin to fathom. 23 years. Just let it sink in. However, all good things must come to an end, and as we know, they are not invincible.
If we can see some more of the magic from the backs that we had last weekend, some dominating force from the forwards and our key players can keep their head on straight, not give away senseless penalties or worse, find themselves in the bin for a stint, then I absolutely believe we are in with a good chance of causing some serious upset. These boys have the opportunity of a lifetime.
It would be a treat to take that 23 year record away from them at Eden Park and an absolute treasure to take the series win for the first time since 1971. 46 years of Southern Hemisphere domination sat on a knife edge this weekend.
I can’t wait, I really can’t. Have a great weekend and enjoy the game.
GO WELL THE BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS!