Andy Farrell has billed next Saturday’s Test series decider between the British and Irish Lions and Australia as “the biggest game of our lives”.
The Lions have migrated north to Noosa for a few days’ rest and recuperation following their last-gasp defeat in Melbourne yesterday.
There is also an injury cloud hovering over their captain Sam Warburton, who will arrive on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast today after remaining in Melbourne overnight for a scan.
But assistant coach Farrell has no doubt the Lions will regroup ahead of the Sydney showdown.
And they are also optimistic that centre Jamie Roberts and prop Alex Corbisiero will return to full training on Wednesday, putting them in contention for next weekend.
Wales international Roberts has yet to play in the Test series because of a hamstring problem, while England prop Corbisiero suffered a calf injury in the series opener at Suncorp Stadium.
“There are a few boys training tomorrow and they will go hard. The rest of the squad have a couple of days off and we’ll train on Wednesday and Thursday,” Farrell said today.
“People like Alex Corbisiero and Jamie Roberts will go hard tomorrow and hopefully be right for full training on Wednesday.”
The Lions have been installed as marginal favourites to win the third and final Test at ANZ Stadium, but the momentum is with Australia following their dramatic Melbourne victory.
“The reality is that it’s 1-1 after two good teams have gone at it hammer and tongs. We’re both still in the race,” Farrell added.
“I’m proud of the way we stuck at it. We were lucky to get away with a win in the first game, and in the second game we could have won. After those two games, 1-1 is a fair way to look at the series.
“We all realise it (next Saturday) is the biggest game of our lives and we’ll see what comes of it. I wouldn’t say Australia are in the driving seat. I would say they’re very pleased – it was a do or die situation for them, and they rose to the challenge.”
Farrell has dismissed any prospect of the Lions being fatigued as they approach the end of a 10-match tour that started in Hong Kong four weeks ago.
“Fatigue doesn’t come into it with the enormity of the task ahead and what is at stake,” he said.
“If you ask the players, they would play the game again tomorrow. They want to get straight back on the horse and get back at it. That’s what big-game players want to do – get back at it straightaway.
“The disappointment is that we have to wait five or six days to put it right.
“We have always said that we’ve got a good squad and we believe in everyone within the squad. We will back everyone to the hilt and that is what we’ve done throughout this campaign.
“Whoever gets selected for this last game in Sydney, big-game players normally produce when it counts, and it counts no more than next weekend.”
One of the Lions’ main tasks in Sydney will be attempting to shackle a dangerous Australia back division sparked by brilliant Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia.
Genia repeatedly guided Australia into Lions’ territory at the Etihad Stadium, capitalising on some quality set-piece possession provided by the Wallabies forwards.
“You will look more dangerous when you’ve got a lot of ball in the right areas of the field,” Farrell added.
“The disappointing thing for us with our lack of accuracy was that we couldn’t get our backs into the game because we couldn’t keep hold of the ball for more than three or four phases.
“Our strength is our physicality and our skill and pace within the backs, but we couldn’t keep that going and Australia could because of the way they kept the ball and the way we kept letting them back into the game.”
Meanwhile Kurtley Beale has offered sympathy to Leigh Halfpenny after his missed penalty cost the Lions victory.
Beale came up short in the Wallabies’ 23-21 defeat in Brisbane, and yesterday Halfpenny followed suit in almost identical circumstances at the Etihad Stadium, that finished with the Lions losing 16-15.
“I was praying a little bit. I was in the same position last week. It’s a big kick, a massive kick, and there’s a lot of things going through your head,” Beale said. “He was striking the ball pretty well, really well, and it just fell short by a couple of metres. We were pretty lucky.
“I have a little bit of sympathy with Halfpenny. It was a big ask.”