Matthew Burke: Lions taming needs muscle – here are my tips

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the series against the British and Irish Lions in 2001 was the speed of play and physicality. We were shell-shocked walking into the sheds after losing the first Test in Brisbane. To put it simply, we were out-muscled.
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We Wallabies had to ask some serious questions about how we could get tougher in a week. We knew we had the skill to deliver something that would stress the Lions, but it came down to being able to dominate your opposite number, especially in the forwards. The coming series will be no different as size will be a factor. Here are the forwards I’d call up to wear the gold jersey.

Tight-head prop: James Slipper. If you are looking for the combination of a solid scrummager and mobility, Slipper has all the necessary attributes. He has shown at the Reds he can get into a position of support to the ball players.

Hooker: Stephen Moore. It’s all about experience and Moore has that mantle sewn up with 76 caps to his name. He will face a wily front row that will use all the tricks of the north to unsettle the Wallabies pack. His ball running is a feature of his game and he will pop up in support.

Loose-head prop Benn Robinson. Coming into some good form after an indifferent start to the Waratahs’ season. He’s not only an accomplished scrummager but very solid in defence. Mobility is one of his best attributes and he often steals the opposition ball at the breakdown. As a replacement Ben Alexander would be vital as he can play loose- and tight-head.

Second-rowers: James Horwill. Perhaps some time on the sidelines through injury has given him a new lease of life. The skipper cuts an imposing figure and players follow his actions. His physical presence will be enough to match the Lions and continues the theme of size throughout this pack. Sitaleki Timani. Included for his pure size and physicality – sometimes you just need a bloke who is going to be intimidating. His intensity at the breakdown and his defence will be felt for 60 minutes, then he can rest. Step up Hugh McMeniman, otherwise known as ”Madness”. He is overcoming a shoulder injury but before that, he was proving his worth at the Force in his ball carries and lineout ability.

Blindside breakaway: Dave Dennis. An impressive man on the field who came of age last season and was rewarded with his first Wallabies jersey. Captaining the Waratahs has brought a new sense of awareness without reducing his aggression.

Openside breakaway: Michael Hooper. Have to go with the youth call here. If we remember back in 2001, George Smith was the baby assassin of the Wallabies and no doubt Hooper would be able to handle the pressure of coming up against Lions captain Sam Warburton. He played incredibly well last season in the absence of David Pocock, and has relished the role as the scavenger at the Waratahs. Smith has to be in the 23 for his experience alone, not to mention how effective his play has been since he took up a contract with the Brumbies. Fotu Auelua is my bolter. Playing a supersub role is simple – smash the opposition whenever possible. His ball carrying has been top class and his effectiveness at the breakdown and in defence has left players reeling.

No.8: Scott Higginbotham. Big, dynamic and fast, exactly what the Wallabies need. He has been imposing in a Rebels side that has been dominated in most areas around the park. He is at home at blindside breakaway as much as he is at No.8. He will be an important cog at the back of the scrum as well as dominating at lineout time.

The difficulty for the selectors will be how to find places for the likes of Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Liam Gill and co, who have all excelled at Super Rugby level this year. This is a nice dilemma for them compared with last year.

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