This is your Everest, boys. Very few ever get a chance in rugby terms to get for the top of Everest. You have that chance today.
Jim Telfer - 1997
The tragedy of every athlete is age and the fallout from the first Test has sharpened that crystal into Lions vision, the resulting casualty list and eventual loss of Paul O'Connell is colossal, given his scars this was certain to be his last opportunity to pull on the red jersey. The measure of his regard being he's been asked to stay with the camp and just be there, just to be there and be Paul O'Connell is enough.
Camped on the spectrums opposite end is George North, who could dilate the pupils of southern hemisphere opposition for another two tours at least. Dropping from the sky into his hand, the ball then tucked under arm, crashing through four defenders and splashing across the pages of our Sunday papers. If they only knew of him before, Australia certainly fear George North now.
The Australian body count from the first test was even more substantial. Christian Lealiifano debut lasted 46 seconds before going the way of concussion, with a further three players being stretchered off during the game. The cavalry’s been called but the wounds remain for a side fighting for their very existence. Australian captain James Howell has been cleared to play after a flood of blood resulted in a passable Riverdance audition across the cranium of Alun Wyn Jones. There is also the litigious matter of Digby Ioane having a warrant out for his arrest for failing to turn up to court on an assault charge, but this and everything else engulfing the series just adds another ring to the circus.
There are areas for concern for the Lions, and they go by the names Will and Genea. The Australian scrum half appears to possess a centre of gravity half way up his own calf, with his balance and brain being of perpetual irritation to the Lions. Last week he resolutely outplayed his opposite number, the towering Welsh man Mike Philips. This time Ben Youngs comes in to the line up alongside his brother Tom to pick, prod and snaffle at the base of the scrum. The Lions will also bring in the tall timber of Geoff Parling, a man who's week you'd be hard pressed to match – he came on at the end of the first test, was then made captain of the mid-week team, only to be then withdrawn and placed in the starting line-up for Saturday, whilst this was going on his wife gave birth to their first child back in Blighty. As I said, busy week.
Rugby's quizzical beauty is unlike other sports, 2 + 2 is not necessarily 4. The interpretation of the rule book is everything, The Lions were penalised at the breakdown where others would have been rewarded last Saturday. But to win the Lions can't bitch or carp, they have to manage the referee, a skill captain Warburton is renowned for, at every opportunity find out how he wants it played and adapt. Give away needless penalties and we could be more stuck than even Leigh Halfpenny's boot can see us out of.
For the Lions there is an opportunity to go for the jugular, to be the fifth team in 125 years to win a Test series. For the Wallabies there is no tomorrow, with their coach nailed on for the sack if he doesn't win, expect tackles so late they could be posthumous and lungs full of hearts and guts. In the those 125 years the world has conspired to change around it, but sport at its very essence hasn’t, it's 15 vs 15 and for the Lions at least, it's their shot at forever.