Rugby: Lions expecting conservative strategy from Deans

By Jim Morton

Ewen McKenzie and Quade Cooper. Photo / Getty Images
Ewen McKenzie and Quade Cooper. Photo / Getty Images

Reds mentor Ewen McKenzie presented the Wallabies with a high-risk game plan to test the Lions but the tourists are braced for something less dangerous in their test showdown.

While Queensland asked plenty of questions in their invigorating 22-12 defeat at Suncorp Stadium, Lions rugby coach Warren Gatland is planning to confront a more conservative strategy from Australia counterpart Robbie Deans.

Post-match, Gatland said he hoped the Wallabies would adopt the same helter-skelter approach that stretched the Lions on Saturday night.

On Sunday, he chose his words far more carefully when asked whether he expects similar up-tempo rugby in the three-test series.

"No, I think Australia will be a little bit more structured," Gatland said. "The pleasing thing was the Reds went out there to run us off our feet and to play at a high tempo.

"That was effective for about 20 minutes and then they weren't able to [capitalise] against us. I don't think Australia will be quite as carefree as that."

With enigmatic Reds playmaker Quade Cooper out of the final 31-man squad - the last six named yesterday being troubled back Kurtley Beale, Hugh McMeniman, Digby Ioane, Pat McCabe, Peter Kimlin and Scott Sio, with James Horwill confirmed as skipper - the Wallabies are set to take a more direct and territorial approach with James O'Connor at No10.

"With Quade you get the full bag of tricks," Gatland said. "You've got to watch him - the quick taps and stuff. If someone else plays 10, you'll get more structure."

Although the Wallabies won't follow the same plan, Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll said the Lions needed to take a leaf out of the Reds' book.

"We can't be adopting the mentality to soak up pressure," said O'Driscoll, who captains the tourists against Combined Country tonight.

"We have to feel we can have a purple patch in the first 20 minutes as well and take our game to the opposition."

* It was a bad weekend for Cooper, who was drenched in beer by a patron at a Brisbane hotel on Sunday afternoon. A witness said the patron goaded Cooper by abusing him and threw a plastic cup of beer over him. An argument ensued before security staff ejected the patron.


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