Lions cope with blustery weather in resort town
NOOSA HEADS, Australia (AP) — A day before the British and Irish Lions name their team for the deciding third test against Australia, most of the players had a day to relax in what was supposed to be a subtropical paradise.
With high winds, frequent rain squalls and generally unseasonably cool winter weather, though, it was anything but a sunny coast on Tuesday.
The gloomy weather was matched Monday by news that Lions captain Sam Warburton would miss the Sydney test due to a left hamstring injury and could be sidelined until October.
Sequestered in a five-star resort in this Sunshine Coast tourist town about a 90-minute drive north of Brisbane, some of the players took to the warmer ocean water on Monday and Tuesday, and some rode jet-skis on the nearby Noosa River.
On the main Hastings Street strip, though, it was downright blustery. But nothing the tourists couldn’t handle.
Veteran Irish center Brian O’Driscoll, on in his fourth Lions tour and the likely replacement as captain for the third test, walked along the main street with the hood of his fleece jacket flipped over his head.
Walking with him were Sean O’Brien, who could replace Warburton on the openside flank, and flyhalf Jonny Sexton, both wearing brimless knit caps over their heads and bundled up against the weather.
Large red banners welcoming the Lions and their fans flapped briskly in the wind. Restaurants, including one offering crocodile sausages as part of a breakfast “Fit for a Lion,” seemed quiet. Custom even at the main bar at the Lions’ hotel was slow.
Back inside the hotel, coach Warren Gatland and his tour brains trust were plotting a number of changes forced by Warburton’s injury and the availability of several players who weren’t able to take part in the Lions’ 16-15 loss to the Wallabies in Melbourne on Saturday.
The Lions won the first test 23-21 on June 22 in Brisbane and are trying to end a 16-year losing streak — the last series victory on their quadrennial tours was in 1997 over South Africa.
The 34-year-old O’Driscoll, who made his debut as a Lion in the 2-1 series loss to Australia in 2001, figures no one is a certainty for inclusion in the side that will be named Wednesday.
“Particularly when you have lost a game, I imagine every place is up for scrutiny, at least, as to whether the person deserves to be in the jersey again,” O’Driscoll said.
“I won’t go chewing my nails off thinking about it. I will go with the flow like everyone else does. Hopefully, I will be included in that team. If I am not, I will deal with that if the situation arises.”
Center Jamie Roberts (hamstring) and prop Alex Corbisiero (calf muscle) both worked out on Monday — the only two members of the side scheduled to do so — and both will be considered for the squad to play Saturday before a sellout crowd of at about 82,000 at Sydney’s former Olympic stadium.
The Lions will hold their first full workout at a local rugby ground in Noosa shortly after the team is named Wednesday.
O’Driscoll said there appeared to be no favorite for the deciding test.
“We knew we were never going to get it easy against Australia, and it has been proved,” O’Driscoll said. “They have been two incredibly keenly-contested games. Both of them should probably have gone the other way that they did, and it now culminates with a winner-takes-all.
“One more 80 minutes this season is all that is asked of everyone in the squad — the 80 minutes of their lives.”