Jones key as Lions push for series glory

Qantas Wallabies prop Ben Alexander has picked out Adam Jones as the key man for the British & Irish Lions as they go in search of the win they need in Melbourne to clinch their first series in 16 years. [more]

Jones key as Lions push for series glory

Qantas Wallabies prop Ben Alexander has picked out Adam Jones as the key man for the British & Irish Lions as they go in search of the win they need in Melbourne to clinch their first series in 16 years.

The Lions will go in for the kill in the Victorian capital on Saturday night hoping to avenge their record 35-14 defeat against Australia at the same venue 12 years ago. The tide turned that night as the Wallabies recovered from their first Tests defeat and went on to win their first series against the Lions.

But, having seized the initiative with their 23-21 victory in Brisbane last weekend, the Lions, despite losing Paul O’Connell with a broken arm, are ready to push for glory and the Tom Richards Trophy.

Welsh tight head prop Jones played his 91st Test match at Suncorp Stadium and was instrumental in helping the Lions dominate the early scrums and lay the platform for victory.

Alexander, who is hoping to join the Wallabies’ ’50 cap club’ on Saturday night, was encouraged by the way his side’s scrum came back at the Lions in Brisbane. Having saved a vital scrum five metres out from their own line in the first Test, they went on to win the penalty that gave Kurtley Beale a last chance kick at goal to win the game.

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Last weekend Beale and James O’Connor missed with four penalties and a conversion between them, leaving 14 points out on the pitch. Goal kicking is something Alexander wants to see ‘fixed’ for Melbourne, but he also wants other improvements in the Australian game as they fight to stay in the series.

“It was a tough game last weekend and the Lions punished any mistakes we made. They are a very well-drilled side and the intensity and physicality was definitely right up there,” said Alexander.

“But what really stood out for me was that whatever mistake we made, whether it was a missed tackle, a maul set up wrongly or at the scrum, they punished us and got a penalty. Their capacity to punish any mistake, whether technical or tactical, was definitely up on any Super Rugby or Test match.

“It was good for us to get a hit out as an eight. It is a team effort and you have to get comfortable and find a rhythm together. We felt it was a good starting base for us, but it is still not where we want to be.

“We had one bad scrum and we want to eradicate that out of our game. There are areas we can definitely improve on and I’m sure the Lions will be thinking the same. Knowing Graham Rowntree he will be filthy with that and be working hard for them to come out better this weekend.

“The Lions’ loose heads seem to be dropping like flies. It was the first time I had played against Alex Corbisiero and he is a very good player. If he misses the game on Saturday they still have Ryan Grant and Mako Vunipola to call on, both of who are having good tours.

“But the key to driving their scrum is still definitely Adam Jones. He is the guy that drives that and whoever scrums with him will do very well. We have scrummed against these guys many times before so we knew what they were capable of.

“They did well at disrupting our rhythm at engagement and we got done for going early. Then they really got the shunt on us at that one scrum. If you don’t have that weight and all your feet on the deck at one time when the scrum comes together then you will go sliding backwards, especially on that deck.

“The scrum battle isn’t just won on one scrum, but on all of them throughout the game. The boys just ripped in and kept fighting and we were very happy to turn the tables on them later on.

“It’s something we have put a lot of work into – keeping our cool and keep hammering away at it. We have always been confident in our scrum, bar one game last year.”

Alexander is hoping to make it a special celebration on his expected 50th Test appearance at the weekend in a game that will definitely be missing Paul O’Connell, Digby Ioane, Pat McCabe and Berrick Barnes from the teams that lined-up seven days ago. Adam Ashley-Cooper and Christian Leali’ifano and Alex Corbisiero are also facing fitness tests this week to see if they can play.

The Lions haven’t won a Test series since 1997 and a win in Melbourne would make it three Test victories in a row. The last time that happened was way back in 1974.

“I never thought I’d get to 50 Tests when I first started playing for the Wallabies. I was just happy with one to begin with. It hasn’t happened yet, and it isn’t a focus for me,” said Alexander.

“My main focus is on helping the Wallabies win this Test match. All those milestones are things you look back on when you retire.”

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