• Switch Edition
ESPN SCRUM / Tom's Tour Diary / News
British & Irish Lions
Lions conclude preparations for 'Grand Final'
Tom Hamilton in Sydney
July 5, 2013
Alun Wyn Jones leads the team in their final captain's run of the tour © Getty Images

If you were ever in doubt of what Saturday's game means for the British & Irish Lions, 15 minutes with Graham Rowntree today would have made that abundantly clear. Last week the buzz word was 'history', and phrases such as 'do or die', 'all or nothing' were strewn around press conferences.

Today, the press sat there listening intently to what Rowntree had to say about the third Test and the word 'desperate' was used over and over again by the forwards coach. Rowntree sat there with a steely eyed determination and oozed confidence, but not arrogance.

He experienced the heart break of 2009 as a coach and the embarrassment of 2005 as a player. While Brian O'Driscoll will be seated in the stands for Saturday's game, Rowntree will be in the coaches' box alongside his fellow backroom staff looking to add that extra five percent with any changes or tactical tweaks.

But despite the match being just over a day away, there was still time for those last little elements of mind games. "I think we saw the reaction from Australia last week after they beat us, especially Horwill who was crying.

"They threw everything at us last week and we didn't get our game going, which is something we have thought about this week. There's loads more to come from us, the guys are desperate to win. This is Grand Final rugby, last throw of the dice, everything to play for."

On Thursday evening, the North Sydney Oval hosted the classic Wallabies' game against the British & Irish Legends. There were players on both sides who have been on the wrong end of a series loss for the Lions or for the opposition. The class of 2013 will be 'desperate' to avoid this.

The ground has been the Lions' base while in Sydney and today it was the crop of 2013 to go through the captain's run. Central to that was Alun-Wyn Jones, the man who will lead out the Lions on Saturday. The word 'passion' does not do his attitude to the game justice. Richard Hibbard, who plays alongside the second-row for both the Ospreys and Wales, attempted to put Jones' attitude to the game into words earlier today.

"Al's inspiring on and off the field. He's a true professional and it doesn't get much better than him. On the field he leads from the front and I've never seen anyone like him, he's a machine. Off the field, he's looking at the lineout details, scrum details and talking with the backs trying to get them right. He's a true leader. He will die for the cause."

Lions coach Graham Rowntree catches up with Warren Gatland, North Sydney Oval, Australia, July 5, 2013
Graham Rowntree and Warren Gatland have made some huge selection calls ahead of the third Test © Getty Images

But one man who will not have the chance to "die for the cause" is O'Driscoll. He's the white elephant in the room. My take on it is that Warren Gatland has probably got this decision right. O'Driscoll, although undoubtedly one of the northern hemisphere's greatest players and a fantastic servant for Irish rugby, has struggled for form in the first two Tests. If this really is "do or die", as Tommy Bowe told us, then Gatland will have to turn to head over heart with Jonathan Davies' performance against the Waratahs arguably the best single showing of the whole tour.

And what is abundantly clear, as it was prior to the second Test, is O'Driscoll's continued importance within the camp. "He trained with the team yesterday, he spoke up and told us exactly what it meant to him again," Bowe said. "Everybody knows the disappointed he has for not being involved. But for a guy like that, such a presence, to be rallying around the team and to push on and win this series, it's a huge motivation for us to go out and do the job for him as well."

But the O'Driscoll and the rest of the players not picked have had to put that to their personal heartbreak to one side, "that was Wednesday's news", as Rowntree said. Now the focus switches to the 23 men chosen to bury the 16 years of Lions hurt. There have been plenty of questions concerning the team selection but all the answers will be offered tomorrow night.

"It's the biggest game of our lives this, as players and coaches," Rowntree concluded. "A lot of us have been involved in Grand Final games, but this is the biggest one for us."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

Tom Hamilton was brought up near the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum