Fourteen and a half hours would have seemed like a lifetime as Australian captain James Horwill waited to see whether he would be able to play in arguably the country’s biggest match in years. But with the prop now cleared for action, the impetus is back in the Green and Gold’s favour.
In a series that has come down to the smallest of margins, with two missed kicks deciding the ties so far, Horwill’s inclusion could prove the difference between winning and losing.
And after the IRB’s appeal against his exoneration for allegedly stamping on the head of Alun Wyn Jones was dismissed, Aussie coach Robbie Deans has described how “the energy around the team has definitely lifted”.
With two minutes to go on the clock in Brisbane, it is perhaps fair to say that the final test would have simply have looked like being an opportunity for the Wallabies to restore some pride. But with Leigh Halfpenny’s kick falling short, the stage is now set for a thriller in Sydney.
Horwill’s importance to the home side cannot be understated as evidenced by a 70 per cent win ratio under his captaincy, a decent return in an ultra competitive era of rugby. Most significantly he guided Australia to a World Cup semi final in 2011, only going out to the eventual winners, New Zealand.
It will be his leadership on the pitch at the ANZ Stadium that will be key as they look to take advantage of any Lions despondency after coming so close to clinching the series.
To compound the tourist’s bad luck, they will now be without their own captain, Sam Warburton. The flanker limped off with a torn hamstring in the second test and is set for a spell on the sidelines.
With both sides priced up at 10/11 to claim glory, things couldn’t be tighter. But as close as the decider is sure to be, the Australian’s do look like a side that will have the momentum to break the hearts of Warren Gatland’s men.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing