Lions aim to prove that size does matter
Biggest XV ever selected will look to batter Australia into submission up front, but hosts believe their own big man Folau can be key
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has picked a side built to batter Australia into submission in the series-deciding third test. But the Wallabies believe if they can get the ball into the hands of winger Israel Folau they can carve open the giant tourists.
The Lions were labelled "slabs of red meat" by one Australian newspaper when Gatland's squad was announced and have lived up to that billing with some bruising displays of forward power during the tour.
Gatland has fielded the biggest side at his disposal for the Olympic Stadium showdown today, bringing in the likes of hooker Richard Hibbard, number eight Toby Faletau, flanker Sean O'Brien and centre Jamie Roberts.
Irish winger Tommy Bowe is hoping the "big fellas" will help put the tourists on the front foot after they spent much of last weekend's second test defeat in defence.
"The team we've chosen is as big a side as we could have here. Hopefully we can get a lot of ball and get on the front foot," he said.
"There's huge ball carriers there. If we can hold on to the ball and keep battering over the top of the Aussies, we can hopefully do some damage.
"Hopefully I'll be able to get hold of the ball a bit myself. It's exciting to be able to run off big ball carriers like Toby, Sean and Jamie."
Roberts, whose inclusion in the side after recovery from a hamstring injury led to the dropping of Irish icon Brian O'Driscoll, will be tasked with blowing holes in the Australian midfield.
"He obviously brings that direct running game," said Wallabies scrum half Will Genia. "Because he's so big, you probably have to double tackle him. I think that's something we do quite well anyway - one go low, one go high.
"We just want to make sure it doesn't give them momentum in their second phase with a big carry or an offload. We'll make sure we do our best to stop him."
The hulking size of the Lions even extends to the wings where George North will be looking to recreate his brilliant try in the first test victory.
The Wallabies have their own big man on the wing in the shape of Folau, who bagged a brace of tries on his debut in Brisbane.
"I think we've got a few initiatives where Israel is allowed to roam and look for the ball," warned Genia. "He's so effective in the carry, he gets us on the front foot, gives us momentum. The more we get the ball in his hands, the better for us."
Welshman Hibbard, brought in to the front row at the expense of the lighter Tom Youngs, said the Lions had targeted the set piece with their beefed-up pack.
"Set piece is a big focus for us to build our platform. Scrums and line-outs are where we really want to dominate," said Hibbard. "I think we've still got a couple more notches to go up, and hopefully everything will come together on Saturday and we really perform."
The Lions were fully expected to dominate the scrum from the start of the series but the Wallabies have confounded those predictions with some smart play in the front row battle.
With prop Alex Corbisiero also returning after injury to add his prodigious scrummaging ability to the Lions pack today, Wallaby hooker Stephen Moore said the home side would have to be competitive from the first hit.
"That's going to be really important tomorrow, to start well in the pack. They've picked a scrummaging pack and I think they are really going to come at us in that area," he said.
The early encounters will be especially important in the scrum with Hibbard and Moore agreeing that French referee Romain Poite tends to reward the team that gets the upper hand.
"What you find with French refs is they actually want to referee aspects of the scrum," Hibbard said. "They want to reward the dominant team, so if we can get on the front foot there, he will be more courageous in giving penalties."