For the British Lions selected to take on the Melbourne Rebels in the last mid-week fixture of the tour, there is just one final chance to force a way into Warren Gatland’s Test match squad.
One man with the potential to bulldoze his way into contention is England centre Manu Tuilagi, who has had to watch original fourth-choice centre Jonathan Davies perform well in his absence:
“It’s an opportunity for myself and the other lads that didn’t play on Saturday to show that we’re all trying to get into that Test team,” he said.
Tuilagi has been an indomitable figure in the England midfield since bursting onto the international scene in 2011 with 10 tries in 20 starts.
He partners England No. 12 Brad Barrett in the centres and their familiarity could well be the Rebels’ downfall, especially given that the Melbourne franchise are without their two outstanding backs in Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor.
Subsequently, a price of 10/1 for the Leicester man to score first, or 16/1 for Barrett to cross first are credible options with Ladbrokes.
Elsewhere in the backline, Simon Zebo – the only man to score two Heineken Cup hat-tricks within a calendar year – and Rob Kearney, who scored in the Lions’ second Test against South Africa in 2009, are facing their last run-outs on the tour; for that reason, respective first tryscorer prices of 7/1 and 12/1 appeal.
Defensively the Lions look water-tight too, with Dan ‘Chopper’ Lydiate captaining the side from blindside flanker, Sean O’Brian at openside and Toby Faletau locking the back-row.
With the tourists looking dangerous in both attack and defence, the handicap of -18.5 is worth taking on at 10/11, added to the fact that the fact that the Rebels have won only four of 14 Super Rugby fixtures and are without Beale, O’Connor and scrum-half Nick Phipps.
All odds and markets are correct at the time of publication.