Having missed the first two Tests through injury, Roberts returned to full training this week and is expected (or hoped!) to be fit for the deciding game on Saturday. There’s a danger that the Lions’ hopes will be pinned on the giant centre, but he’ll be expected to crash over the gainline to create space for the strike runners around him – that sort of focus in midfield has been missing so far. Moreover, the return of Roberts could have a psychological benefit, since the Wallabies certainly don’t want to see him playing in Sydney.
Alun Wyn Jones
With Paul O’Connell missing, AWJ seemed to step up again in Melbourne, and is a candidate to captain the Lions in Sydney. His work rate and commitment is unquestionable, and how he’d love to get one over (legally) on James Horwill after the infamous stamping incident.
Warren Gatland’s selection of Ben Youngs for the 2nd Test raised a few eyebrows, but it was the impact from the bench of the Irishman that really caught the eye. He immediately enforced a turnover, was agressive in defence and provided snappy service. Gatland now has a huge decision on his hands, especially if Phillips is fit as well. Has Murray done enough to start? That would be a huge call, but his partnership with Heaslip and Sexton could provide the Lions with some much-needed fluency in that most vital of channels.
The Lions captain emphatically answered the questions over his selection as the first-choice openside with two impressive Test performances. His efforts in Melbourne were nothing short of heroic, and the Lions arguably would have won if he had stayed on the field in the last ten minutes. A hamstring injury has robbed him of a shot a glory in the 3rd Test, and his workrate, leadership and referee management will be desperately missed.
The young English loosehead had a difficult time in the scrum on Saturday, and although there are various interpretations of which side was scrummaging legally, Vunipola doesn’t instil much confidence and many people are hoping that Alex Corbisiero is passed fit to start the final test. The early loss of Gethin Jenkins and Cian Healy is being felt as the tour reaches its climax.
It is slightly harsh on Parling to include him here, but the lineout was a shambles in the 2nd Test and it can’t all be down to the non-selection of Tom Croft. Not many people could fill O’Connell’s boots, but his position for the final test could well be taken by Richie Gray or Ian Evans who would bring more power to the engine room.
I’m a huge fan of Lydiate, but there have been question marks over his contribution in the 2nd Test. He makes a lot of tackles and should be credited for defensive efforts, but when the consensus is that you can’t win such a tight game by defending for 80 minutes, there needs to be other aspects to his game. Gatland has been very loyal to Lydiate, but you’d expect Croft or Sean O’Brien to start in Sydney.
By James Hutchison
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James