The sparkling form of most of Australia’s Super Rugby teams can be partly explained by the looming Lions tour according to Blues coach John Kirwan.
The Australians are enjoying an unprecedented dominance over New Zealand teams this season – in nine matches between the countries, New Zealand has emerged triumphant in only two.
Kirwan, whose team has defied all predictions to top the New Zealand conference at the halfway stage, hopes the balance of power shifts a little on Friday night when the Blues take on the Reds in Brisbane.
The Reds, who have already beaten the Hurricanes, Highlanders and reigning champions the Chiefs, are displaying the form that helped them win the title in 2011 with Wallaby half-backs Will Genia and Quade Cooper at the heart of everything they are doing.
The Reds fought a 19-19 draw in Brisbane with the table-topping Brumbies last weekend and will be hoping to continue their push for a play-off place by taking another major Kiwi scalp in Round 11 this weekend.
"It's a bit like the World Cup isn't it? In World Cup year everyone has an edge and wants to be selected. I know when I was playing, playing the Lions was a highlight,” said Kirwan.
“I just wish Robbie Deans hadn't left Quade Cooper out of his squad. Since he's been left out of the squad he's been playing the house down."
Kirwan also believes the leading Australian players have benefitted from having a proper pre-season build-up.
"I think they've had a lot of time in the saddle pre-season, they had eight or nine weeks together which is a luxury we don't get," added Kirwan.
"They are well drilled – and there is that Lions jersey there, so everyone's up trying to be selected."