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HomeRugbyMatt Dawson column: British and Irish Lions crying out for artistic participant

Matt Dawson column: British and Irish Lions crying out for artistic participant

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This British and Irish Lions series is crying out for a touring player to create a moment that will turn the tide.

In that game, I expected the Lions to have more control over the ball and give South Africa more opportunities to defend.

They stopped competing on the line-out, they didn’t compete on the rucksacks. I was a little at a loss as to why the Lions stopped playing rugby.

If you look at the Lions roster, it’s obvious what head coach Warren Gatland thinks he has to do to win in South Africa.

Of course you need the crowd and the power game, but there also have to be a few lateral thinkers.

None of the backs had the opportunity to do anything on Saturday. The Lions backline looked almost traditionally South African – very tall, strong, and made great tackles, but no chances.

These are massive test games and you will need certain people to play at this level. Over the years you had Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Brian O’Driscoll, and there was Jonathan Davies too.

This midfield needs a bit of yin and yang and is very predictable at the moment. This is where the Lions could improve if they had a different ball player.

“Lions are now the outsiders”

Owen Farrell catches the ball
England captain Owen Farrell was on the bench for the first two friendly matches

I wouldn’t be surprised if Gatland made some picks for the crucial Test that we didn’t see coming. He may have to roll the dice.

He knows the mentality of the players who can win the game – and needs to find it pretty quickly.

Gatland could return to those he knows well from his time as a Welsh coach like Liam Williams.

I don’t think they can go into this friendly game with a game plan where they just kick the ball and hope they pick up the scraps.

Getting beaten in mid-air is risky, so maybe Scrum half Ali Price should come back for Conor Murray.

An obvious choice is to put Owen Farrell on 12. He hasn’t played a lot of rugby since Saracens was in the championship last season and he wasn’t in top form but he is a friendly match animal.

I also think that wing Josh Adams has to come in because he can deliver on the big stage.

Lions have focused so much on the physicality they delivered, but they fail to strike the right balance with creativity.

It’s often easier, when you’ve been beaten like this, to individually and collectively make some significant changes and do something about it, rather than walking around and being happy to have won the game.

Underdog Day has moved to the Lions and there will be plenty of motivation. It’s a big week of printing for the players.

“Players would talk about this win for the rest of their lives”

Winning this series would be the greatest achievement in these players’ careers.

There are a few, including Captain Alun Wyn Jones, who were on the 2013 winning tour of Australia.

A series win is a series win, but a win in South Africa and New Zealand is worth maybe 0.5% more than a win in Australia.

For these players, this is something they will talk about for the rest of their lives.

A decision is made about the coin toss. For rugby fans, as much as they may get upset that the Lions were knocked down this second half, the fact that a decision is made is an absolute dream.

From the player’s point of view, the Lions have to dust themselves off because that defeat will leave scars.

They have lost the momentum they had after the opening win and South Africa has a leap in the crotch.

You straighten your chest and think: “That’s why we are world champions”. When number eight Duane Vermeulen returns from injury for the final test, there will be so many positives for the springboks.

It’s the Lions against South Africa. These are historical test matches. Much is at stake. Neither of these players will get this opportunity again and they will want to grab it with both hands.

“Erasmus video gave Springboks an edge”

Rassie Erasmus as a waterboy during a game
South African rugby director Rassie Erasmus has posted an hour-long video online criticizing Nic Berry’s referee in the first test

I think both Lions complaints about the deployment of a South African TV match official before the first test and Rassie Erasmus’ video criticizing the referees Before that, the second test had an impact on the games.

We all talked about it. The people involved will think about it. That would have motivated the teams.

I’m sure something will happen in the future if you are not allowed to do what Erasmus did, but it’s well within the laws of the game now.

Test matches are won by narrow margins and I think South Africa had an advantage because of the video.

It gave them something to hit their chests and scream and scream in the locker room.

As a trainer, you need to find these tricks. I’m not saying that I totally agree, but it has been going on for years.

It’s going to be dissected because of the enormity of the game, but it was always there.

Matt Dawson spoke to BBC Sport’s Becky Gray

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