I mentioned after the 2nd Test that I was far too emotionally involved in the Lions series to give up on any hope of a series win. And that is still true. But what an emotional rollercoaster it’s been this week. Obviously as an Irishman I probably got caught up in the prospect of a fairytale end to Brian O’Driscoll’s Lions career. After all, the Tour captain was injured, and he seemed for many (but not all) to be the shoo-in choice to lead the Lions out on Saturday.
I’ve been trying all week to contradict my long standing conviction that we had to win the first two Tests to win the series. Obviously that’s a tough ask in such a short timeframe but one of the things I took hope from was that the stage was set for O’Driscoll to rally the troops one last time. It’s very difficult not to be a little bit biased of course, but he’s such a big game player that in the biggest game of his career I’d find it difficult not to trust him.
Obviously Warren Gatland saw it differently, and I’m not ashamed to say that it’s been a bit deflating to see O’Driscoll dropped (have I mentioned I’m Irish?!).
I’ve heard of folk suggesting they won’t shout for the Lions as a result, which is to my mind ridiculous. However tragic you might think the decision was this isn’t about being Welsh or Irish or Scottish or English. The Lions need a series win, we really do, and if you’re a Lions fan then how can you not cheer for them? If it wasn’t bad enough to hear people question the concept this year, imagine how much worse it will be in four years time if we rock up to New Zealand without a win in 20 years.
Of course, perhaps it helps a bit to actually be in Sydney. The Rocks are heaving with raucous Lions supporters from the Home Nations, reminiscent perhaps of the early colonial days when convicts from those same nations were shipped into the very same neighbourhood. The atmosphere is building once again and I’ve no doubt I’ll come across a few more Lions fans singing their hearts out and I’ll happily join in the fun.
There’s no doubt that this series has been tremendous fun. Sure the rugby hasn’t been outstanding at times. It’s been a bit straight-laced and one dimensional, especially when the important stuff has started. I have disagreed with many of the coaches’ decisions and agreed with others, as any fan would. Naturally that has added to the enjoyment of the tour, because who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned debate every now and then!
ANZ Stadium is purported to be an 83,500 sell out and with 30,000 more fans packed in than Brisbane or Melbourne and the series poised at 1-1, I’ve no doubt the atmosphere will be even more incredible than the last two matches. I’ve made no secret that I come to Sydney more in hope than expectation, but what a hope that is.
I’m hoping, somewhat foolishly perhaps, that they’ll release George North into some space and we can really get something to roar about. I’m hoping that in years to come I’ll be looking back wistfully at this series where the Lions, against all odds, managed to wrest a series from the paws of the Wallabies. I’m hoping, in short, to be a small part of history.
I hope I’m not disappointed.
By Conor Long (@conorlong1)