Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: It's time for chattering to end and show begin

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Auditions for the Wallabies and Lions series are done - now for the main acts.

All the chatter, the speculation and conjecture goes to another level today when the sides are announced for Saturday's start to the test series in Brisbane.

The Lions have sashayed from Hong Kong and around Australia while the Wallabies have been going through all sorts of navel contemplation and practice ground sorties.

But with drumrolls and trumpets blaring, expat Kiwis Warren Gatland and Robbie Deans will announce the groups this afternoon who will launch their nations' hopes.

Every former international it seems, from Europe and Convictville, has had a swipe at the likely combos. Few seem to coincide.

The Lions have been more visible and a basic selection framework has emerged while the Wallabies have been out of sight at their training camps as they have run through moves under the refereeing watch of Aussie Steve Walsh.

The loose forward formations will be beguiling and critical in this opening test.

All sorts of whispers start filtering out without anyone bar the teams' coaches knowing how much truth to attach to any of the speculation.

One such murmur had Wycliff Palu not fully fit though he looked very tuned yesterday when he was wheeled out by the Wallabies. He was upbeat as well about his fitness, his knee problems were history, he was ready.

Another buzz has some selection deadlock about the Lions No8 - Jamie Heaslip or Toby Faletau.

The Lions will pick Sam Warburton as captain on the openside although Sean O'Brien might be in more bullish form. Warburton gives them a wider template and his rapport with referees should help at Suncorp.

Tom Croft will fit in on the other flank. He has a range of skills from the lineout, defence, linking and pace he showed for a stonking try against the Waratahs.

In the boot of the pack Heaslip has held some selection trumps and looked steady without some of the accurate finesse his coaches would prefer. Faletau had been off his game until he toiled all night against the Brumbies in the upset 14-12 loss.

He was strong and accurate in a sloppy forward group and offers a tested combination with Warburton. The downside is his limited time to recover for this test and murmurs will inevitably start about a Welshcentric selection if he is picked and the result goes south.

Palu and Michael Hooper are strong money but blindside is a roulette wheel for the Wallabies. Hugh McMenamin has been touted but he is a recent injury recovery while Ben Mowen and Dave Dennis have been much more involved in the Super 15.

Former Wallabies have been hanging around the group in recent weeks, offering support and encouragement.

Men such as Simon Poidevin, Tim Gavin and David Giffin have delivered their own takes on inspiration, lifting the levels and painting some of the mental pictures for the hosts.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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