British & Irish Lions
Five things we learned from...the Rebels clash
June 25, 2013
Has No.8 Toby Faletau forced his way into the second Test reckoning? © Getty Images
The British & Irish Lions' completed their midweek fixtures with a 35-0 victory over the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.
What did the Lions' dominant victory tell us? And what else did we learn that could impact on the Lions' chances of claiming a series victory over the Wallabies?
A change is gonna come
A tour-ending injury to lock Paul O'Connell means there will be at least one change to the British & Irish Lions' Test line-up that is announced on Thursday with on-going concerns about the fitness of prop Alex Corbisiero suggesting there will be at least one other switch up front. But it looks like the changes will not stop there with coach Warren Gatland revealing that he is well aware that had Kurtley Beale not slipped his side would not be sitting so pretty. In an honest assessment prior to their latest outing, Gatland admitted that had that kick gone over he would be seriously considering shaking up his line-up due to their shortcomings and those concerns did not vanish when Beale's kick sailed wide. Who's for the chop?
The Lions remember how to roar
A week ago the Lions were accused of forgetting about what an honour it is to be able to pull on the world famous red shirt having served up a lacklustre and error-strewn performance against the Brumbies. That display was rightly rewarded with an embarrassing defeat but there would be no repeat for the midweek Lions in Melbourne. The Rebels may have lacked the spark boasted by the Brumbies, but you sense not even the Canberra heroes could have lived with a Lions side that re-discovered its bite and not only shut out their hosts but produced the energy and intensity that was sorely missed last week.
The Lions really are blessed with strength in depth when it comes to back-row options. The power-packed triumvirate of blindside Dan Lydiate, openside Sean O'Brien and No.8 Toby Faletau turned up the heat on their rivals by propelling the tourists to an emphatic victory. They did not waste their final opportunity to issue a reminder to coach Warren Gatland about their own Test credentials. Lydiate, handed the captaincy, led by example with a bone-crunching and game-best 15 tackles, O'Brien served up an all-action masterclass punctuated with a try and Faletau was arguably the pick of the trio having carved up the Rebels with ball in hand while soaking up what attacking endeavour they could muster. Faletau would appear to have the best chance of earning a promotion to the Test ranks with O'Brien a good bet to be warming the bench at the Etihad Stadium.
Lineout looking good
The Lions' lineout was woeful against the Brumbies when the tourists conspired to lose 8 of their own 13 throws. It appeared that their shortcomings impacted on their plans for the first Test where a conservative approach asked few questions of the Wallabies. But it appears they may have rediscovered their prowess with hooker Richard Hibbard building on the solid showing of his rival Tom Youngs on Saturday. The result was 19 successful completions - and two that failed to find their target - with the Lions' varied and bold approach at the set-piece laying the foundation for three of their five tries. No longer an unpredictable aspect of the Lions' armoury, it has returned as a pillar of strength and now it appears their creativity will be the only thing that has the Wallabies scratching their heads.
Flawless Farrell is on fire
If the success of this tour was decided by place-kicking then the ink would have been dry in the record books some time ago. Leigh Halfpenny and Owen Farrell, and to a lesser extent Stuart Hogg, have been sensational from the tee from where they have missed just 10 out of 65 kicks since this tour began in Hong Kong. Farrell's record is the most accurate - with the England playmaker having landed 18 from 19 kicks. His three superb conversions against the Rebels underlined his rich vein of form but his performance offered so much more. With his forwards dominating, Farrell thrived on front foot ball, taking the ball to the line and the attack to the Rebels at every opportunity - and peppered them with touch-finders when an opening was not forthcoming. He may not be the complete playmaker that Test No.10 Jonathan Sexton is but he is a more than able deputy.
Owen Farrell offered a reminder that he is an accomplished playmaker and place kicker © PA Photos
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.