x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

British & Irish Lions tour: Coach Warren Gatland chooses to go large

Lions coach Warren Gatland will beef up his line-up in anticipation of a brutal physical match against Australia in the second Test on Saturday.

Dan Lydiate will be making a start for the Lions in the second Test against Australia on Saturday.
Dan Lydiate will be making a start for the Lions in the second Test against Australia on Saturday.

The British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland rings in the changes for Saturday's second Test against the Wallabies, beefing up his pack for a potentially decisive match against the Australians.

He was forced to switch two of his front five because of injuries, and has added the Wales flanker Dan Lydiate to the back row in place of Tom Croft as one of five changes to the team that won the first Test 23-21 a week ago.

He has taken the experienced scrum-half Mike Phillips out of the second Test to save him for the third, in Sydney, because of a nagging knee injury.

Ben Youngs replaces Phillips and Tommy Bowe returns on the right wing after making a three-week recovery from a broken hand that required surgery after the win over Queensland Reds.

He takes over from the Brisbane try scorer Alex Cuthbert.

"It's going to be a real battle out there. We've decided to add a little bit more physicality to our side up front," Gatland said.

The Lions are chasing a win at the Etihad Stadium this weekend that would earn them a first Test series victory since 1997.

They went 1-0 up in the last series in Australia 12 years ago, but then lost the last two Tests.

"One or two changes were forced on us, and we've got a couple of players coming back from injury, but it just shows how strong the squad is," Gatland said.

"I don't know who made that thing up about not changing a winning side - it is about picking the best team to do a job for us. We can win this series by winning on Saturday and that's where our whole focus needs to be.

"The last thing we want to think about is being one-all and having to play another game in Sydney. Everything for us is about Saturday night."

The Australia coach Robbie Deans stopped short of dropping backs James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale for being out late four days before Saturday's must-win second Test.

The Wallabies backs were photographed at a fast-food restaurant at nearly 4am local time on Wednesday after joining a function with their Melbourne Rebels teammates following the midweek tour match against the Lions.

O'Connor struggled at fly-half during the Wallabies' bruising loss in the first Test as several backline teammates succumbed to injury, but retains the position in a rejigged Wallabies backline.

Beale, who started on the bench last week and missed two late shots on goal that could have given the Wallabies a victory, was already under scrutiny after missing months of rugby to deal with alcohol-related issues.

With the series on the line, he has been promoted to starting fullback in place of the injured Berrick Barnes. The ACT Brumbies back Joe Tomane lines up at the left wing for just his second Test, a year after making his debut against Scotland.

Tomane takes the place of the injured Digby Ioane, the New Zealand-born Queensland Reds player, who provided another unwelcome distraction to the Wallabies' camp when a court issued a warrant for his arrest on Monday after he missed a court appearance to face an assault charge.

In better news for the Wallabies, Christian Leali'ifano was cleared to play.

Leali'ifano retains his starting position at inside-centre after being knocked out in the first minute at Lang Park in the briefest of Test debuts.

Adam Ashley-Cooper, a rugged veteran, was also cleared to play after a shoulder injury in the first Test and lines up at outside centre.


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