British & Irish Lions
Eales turns up the heat on 'scarred' Lions
ESPN Staff
May 20, 2013
Former Wallabies captain John Eales talks to the media, VISA Rugby Legends press conference, Sofitel Hotel, Paris, France, November 16, 2006
Former Wallabies skipper John Eales believes the Lions' Welsh players may be carrying a few mental scars © Getty Images

Wallabies legend John Eales has warned the British & Irish Lions that it may be a mistake to pack their Test side with Welshmen.

Eales, who famously captained Australia to a 2-1 series triumph against the Lions in 2001, has turned up the heat on the elite tourists by suggesting that Wales' recent record against their southern hemisphere rivals could have left their players psychologically scarred.

Wales may have won back-to-back Six Nations titles under Warren Gatland's charge but have lost 20 of their last 23 matches against Australia and have suffered eight straight defeats including six in the last 14 months.

"If Gatland does run with a Welsh-dominated side, that country's poor record against the Wallabies may be more significant than he would like to concede," Eales wrote in a recent column for the Sydney Morning Herald. "Time and again psychological hang-ups do raise spectres which logic may have ignored."

He added: "I'm sure the Lions selectors will consider picking more Scots and fewer Welsh as the Wallabies, with two losses in-a-row against Scotland, seem to lose it somewhere between the final notes of Flower of Scotland and the full-time whistle.

"In contrast, Australia have beaten Wales six times since October 2011 so, somehow, Gatland will need to quell the psychological blanket the Wallabies have over his Welsh contingent."

Wales supply 15 of members of Gatland's 37-man squad with skipper Sam Warburton having been handed the captaincy of the Lions in a move that Eales has endorsed. "He had success leading Wales and is seen as a guy who is very composed," said Eales, who is now a director of the Australian Rugby Union.

"People look up to him, he gets the best out of his team-mates. He seems to have an impact on the style of play the team has and he shows a lot of confidence in his colleagues. He is also seen as someone who talks well to referees and his own team and he certainly doesn't take a backwards step.

"Gatland, who is a bright coach and had success at many different levels, was going to be thinking 'Who is going to be the best captain to pull this team together to have an impact against Australia this time?'

"He would have given that deep consideration. He's chosen Sam and is obviously in a much better position to choose him than anyone else because he's seen him at many levels, and that's a big vote of confidence from a smart rugby coach.

"When you're picking the Lions squad, or picking any squad, you choose the best players and then you choose the captain.

"From the outside looking in, it's always hard to understand exactly what's happening in the team environment. But it looks like he's a guy that definitely leads by example when he gets out there. He talks a lot to his team, he gets in there and just does it himself. You can't ask for more from a captain."

Australia captain John Eales lifts the Tom Richards trophy following the Wallabies' series victory over the Lions in 2001 © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.