Keep the faith
Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis looks at the five areas where the Lions can win 'The Decider' against Australia.
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC
Last Updated: 02/07/13 1:13pm
The Lions missed the chance to wrap up a first series win since 1997 when the Wallabies snatched a 16-15 victory in the second Test at the Etihad Stadium.
The momentum might now be with the hosts, particularly as the Lions have also lost captain Sam Warburton through injury, however there are plenty of reasons for the tourists to be confident of success.
And ahead of the showdown at the ANZ Stadium, we look at the five areas where the Lions can win the game.
The Australia scrum might not be the weak link that some would have had you believe but it is still an area where the Lions can gain the edge, particularly if Alex Corbisiero is passed fit. The England loosehead had been in impressive form during the 23-21 victory in the first Test - and the Lions scrum struggled significantly after he went off with a calf injury. Mako Vunipola came in for the second Test - and people will quite rightly look at the four penalties he conceded at scrum time. However what seems to be have forgotten - or overlooked - is the couple he helped to win back and the fact the Lions scrum improved. With Corbisiero back - or even the inclusion of the underused Ryan Grant - the scrum can only get better and give the Lions a platform to build on.
Centre of attention
The return to full fitness of another player will buoy the back division heading into the decider, with Jamie Roberts set to play some part in Saturday's encounter. The Wales powerhouse has been side-lined since suffering a hamstring injury against the Waratahs, however the indications are that he will come back into the line-up after returning to training. Having two ball-playing centres - in Brian O'Driscoll and Jonathan Davies - hasn't worked, with the Lions struggling to get over the gainline. Enter Roberts to give the backs that oomph they have been missing - and while the Wallabies will be only too aware of the threat posed by Roberts, stopping him is a different proposition. By doubling and tripling up on Roberts, that then creates the space for O'Driscoll, Tommy Bowe and George North to exploit.
There has been plenty written about Leigh Halfpenny "bouncing back" after the second Test loss and how the full-back wasn't to blame. All good for the headlines but totally irrelevant. Halfpenny's injury time shot at goal was 53m out, and with no wind to assist him, it always going to take something special to land a penalty that was out of his range. Halfpenny and the Lions squad know this and, crucially, so will the Wallabies. Halfpenny's kicking has been something special throughout the tour, with the 24-year-old picking up 93 points so far - and you would back him to take any opportunity presented to him in the Australian half.
The Lions clearly upped their game at the breakdown and it paid dividends in the first half. Jamie Heaslip, Mako Vunipola, Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate were getting down and dirty - and if the Lions weren't able to steal the ball at the first attempt, they were able to force the penalty or at least disrupt the Wallabies platform. It was marked improvement on the previous week, with the Lions 'winning' eight of Australia's rucks. The Lions will also be buoyed by the fact there will be a northern hemisphere interpretation to the breakdown - with Frenchman Romain Poite taking charge. That is not to say there will be a northern bias towards the Lions, it is just the players - like Brian O'Driscoll - will have a better understanding of what is expected of them.
In Melbourne, the Lions appeared to set their stall out and attempt to grind out a win - relying on the boot of Leigh Halfpenny to keep the scoreboard ticking over. As a result they were forced to absorb a tremendous amount of pressure and it was no surprise that they eventually cracked. Australia deserve credit for the way they approached the game however the Lions had been forced to reassess their tactics going into the Tests due to injuries to key personnel. The return of Roberts (or even Manu Tuilagi) should allow them to revert to 'Plan A', with that ability to crash over the gainline and pull in defenders allowing the Lions to play on the front foot. That is something the Lions have lacked in the first two Tests, with the failure to drive Australia back meaning the Wallabies able to dictate play, while their mistakes have not been punished. The Lions will be looking to their back-row to get into the act as well to force home the advantage - with the powerhouse Sean O'Brien pushing hard for inclusion in Sam Warburton's absence.