British & Irish Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell knows that it is suddenly do or die in his side’s quest for glory.
Months of planning and weeks of training have all been building towards Saturday’s opening Test against the Qantas Wallabies as the tourists look to avenge 16 years of hurt since their last series success in South Africa.
The Lions have won five and lost one of their six tour matches to date but those results will mean very little unless the Lions can begin with a bang in Brisbane tomorrow.
“We realise what all the hard work over the past six weeks has been for. It is coming about tomorrow and you can tell it is Test week by the buzz about the place,” said Farrell, who insists the Lions have plenty more to offer than what the world has already seen in Hong Kong and Australia.
“There is an excitement among the players and an intensity in the way that they are training. Their work ethic both on and off the training field is at a different level and it has certainly been a great week so far.
“You train together for six weeks and you have a plan, but you hold a few things back and you don’t show everything you’ve got. We aren’t stupid: there is always going to be a plan there and we have to get our own house in order. Over the last six weeks we have done a lot of learning. There has been a progression, but we haven’t wanted to show everything first up – there are three tests to come yet.”
Farrell, fellow assistants Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree and head coach Warren Gatland have picked a starting side that includes eight new Test Lions and seven who starred against the Springboks four years ago for the Saturday night showdown at the Suncorp Stadium.
And while the former rugby league star admits that the Australians pose a threat all over the park thanks to the presence of the likes of star scrum-half Will Genia and cross-code convert Israel Folau, he is more than happy with the experience, quality and will to win of the men he will be sending into the trenches tomorrow.
“We all know the threat of Will Genia and that he is a world class player. We all know the playmakers they have picked in their side and the ball carriers they have in the forwards. Folau is some talent: he seems to find a way of getting his hands free and off loading the ball and making things happen.
“They have threats all over the field, but it is how you dictate your defence to the opposition to not let them be as comfortable as they want to be. That’s what we have been focussing on.
“At the end of the day, when it comes down to big games, everyone knows what it takes to win – it’s physicality, it’s energy, it’s a want to get on top of your opposition, and it won’t be any different whatsoever.
“Experience counts for a lot in big games because they have been there and done that. Australia have got some world class players and so have we – what you generally find when you come to a game like this is the performance levels rise another 10-15 per cent and the more experience you have in your side the better. It was great looking around the team room this morning and seeing who is going into battle with you.”