Rugby Union: North road to Lions immortality

British and Irish Lions' George North.
British and Irish Lions' George North.
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If the Second Test this Saturday in Melbourne between Australia and the British and Irish Lions repeats the high drama, entertainment and outstanding individual performances of the First Test in Brisbane,sports-lovers will be delighted.

And so will the Lions themselves, especially if the result is the same.

To follow Saturday’s narrowest of wins, 23-21, would be huge as it wouldproduce the first series victory by the Lions for 16 years,the last being against South Africa in 1997.

No-one should underestimate the importance of the Lions leaving Australia with a win, whether it is achieved in Melbourne in five days or in the final and Third Test in Sydney a week on Saturday.

It is essential if the popularity of rugby union is to grow in the UK and Ireland. With the World Cup taking place in England and Wales in 2015, a Lions triumph would expand the game’s appeal.

As they prepare for Saturday’s Melbourne clash, what must the Lions be be put right to secure another victory?

Make sure that careless penalties are not conceded, particularly after the team has just scored and increased its authority and confidence.

Secondly, the forwards must not throw away tryscoring positions on Australia’s line as happened when they lost a scrum with 10 minutes remaining.

If the Lions had scored then, a potential match-winning lead would have been established.

Thirdly, speak in detail beforehand to the referee, South African Craig Joubert,about his interpretation of the laws at the breakdown.

New Zealand referee Chris Pollock, in charge at Brisbane, has views on so-called offences following a tackle that are totally different to officials in the Northern Hemisphere.

Pollock is not alone, but Lions captain Sam Warburton and head coach Warren Gatland must be told by Joubert what precisely he will permit,so there is no repetition of the penalties against centre Brian O’Driscoll and others.

If Australia had possessed a decent goalkicker, the Lions would have lost, which is why the laws must be applied consistently wherever the game is played.

Incidentally, Joubert once refereed an Esher-Rotherham in the English Championship match a few seasons ago.

Fourthly, devise a plan to stop Australia’s dangermen, scrum-half Will Genia and winger Israel Folau, both superb in Brisbane.

Fifthly, in attack make far greater use of George North.

The Welsh winger scored one of the most brilliant tries in Lions’ history and one which will always be talked about.

So why did North see so little of the ball in the second half?

Sixthly, the Lions must be far more alert to Australia’s enterprise, exemplified by Genia’s genius, and be prepared occasionally to adopt the unorthodox themselves.

With the power and speed of

wingers North and Alex Cuthbert available, why not attack Australia down the blindside?

The final point is that, in any level of rugby, games cannot be won without accurate goalkickers.

Prayers must be said from now until kick-off in Melbourne asking that Leigh Halfpenny stays fit and continues his match-winning form.