British & Irish Lions
Welsh players may be Lions' weak link - Sharpe
June 6, 2013
Australia's Kurtley Beale dives into score the match-winning try, Wales v Australia, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, December 1
Kurtley Beale and Australia have a recent record of defeating Wales in tight Tests © PA Photos

The British & Irish Lions' decision to select so many Welsh players for their tour of Australia could backfie on the tourists, Nathan Sharpe says.

Wales have won the past two Six Nations trophies, with their excellent form resulting in 15 Welshmen being named in the Lions' 37-man squad. But Sharpe believes the selection may play into the hands of the Wallabies, who have won their past eight Tests against Wales and seem to hold a psychological edge in close matches against the Red Dragons. Four of those wins were claimed by three points or less, including Sharpe's farewell Test in 2012 when Kurtley Beale scored a try at the death to lift the Wallabies to a 14-12 win in Cardiff.

Sharpe said Welsh players might crumble under the pressure when times get tough during the three-Test Tom Richards Cup series, due to their history against Australia.

"There'll be seeds of doubt for both teams," Sharpe, now a coaching consultant with the Wallabies, said. "It's just going to be who handles that doubt the best. The fact that there's a lot of Welshmen in the team - and Australia's won seven or eight on the trot against them - it's going to be in the back of their minds. It will make [Welsh players] hungrier. But I think when times get tough on the field, there will be that lingering bit of doubt. That doubt is something that top teams manage the best."

The Lions ran in nine tries against Western Force (video available only in Australia)

Sharpe, who is working with the Wallabies as a forwards coach, predicts Australia will beat the Lions 2-1. But he said the ability to keep calm under pressure would prove critical, saying that 95% of Test rugby came down to the mental battle. "Everyone's a skilful player," he said. "They're all capable. It's a matter of who can apply that attitude the most courageously."

Sharpe enjoyed a glittering 116-Test career with the Wallabies, but Australia's most-capped forward never had the chance to play against the Lions. The 35-year-old, who has taken up commentary work for Fox Sports and promotional work for HSBC since his retirement last year, said he didn't have a desire to return to the field. "I was at training on Monday and the ball went up and I caught it. There were about five guys charging through on me, and I s*** myself," Sharpe laughed. "So it probably tells me I'm well and truly finished."

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