Ball carrier need means O’Brien must replace Warburton in Lions decider
More physicality is required if the Lions are to win their tour decider with Australia in Sydney, which they are priced at 5/6 to do, and that means that Sean O’Brien is the best option to replace injured captain Sam Warburton.
Warburton injured a hamstring in Melbourne and has already been ruled out of the third test, with fellow Welshman Justin Tipuric the obvious replacement at openside.
Like Warburton, Tipuric would be a nuisance at the breakdown and bring some turnover ball to the Lions, but versatile flanker O’Brien may prove the better option at number 7.
The Lions certainly missed Tom Croft at number 6, particularly for his line-out ability, and his replacement Dan Lydiate did not do enough to suggest he should retain his place.
Lydiate’s strength is tackling, not in the line-out, and his inclusion helped Australia’s Ben Mowen have a fairly easy time of it. Picking Croft will give Mowen much more to think about.
Meanwhile, O’Brien is the best ball carrier among the flankers and getting across the gain line is something that the Lions have somewhat struggled to do.
Attack may well prove the best form of defence in Sydney and Warren Gatland would be best served to pick those players that can make the hard yards.
For this reason, Manu Tuilagi almost has to start at centre, probably in place of Jonathan Davies, who was fairly anonymous in the second test.
The other worthwhile change would be a deserved start for Toby Faletau at number 8, who has made more carries than any other Lions player on this Tour, alongside having beaten the most defenders.
Jamie Heaslip hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong, but he isn’t proving to be a game-changer, which is something that Faletau could be.
Despite winning the second test, Australia are still marginal underdogs to win in Sydney at 1/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.