British and Irish Lions: Warren Gatland opts for added 'physicality'

Last Updated: 27/06/13 11:36am

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British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland is ready for a "do or die" encounter against Australia in Melbourne.

The Lions hold a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series following their 23-21 success against the Wallabies at the Suncorp Stadium.

However it was only an untimely slip from Kurtley Beale while the replacement was attempting to kick a last-minute penalty that meant the Lions head into the second Test with the advantage.

And Gatland has responded to what he saw in Brisbane by making five changes to his line-up - with Ben Youngs, Tommy Bowe, Dan Lydiate, Geoff Parling and Mako Vunipola all handed starts.

The inclusions of Parling and Vunipola were expected due to the injuries Paul O'Connell and Alex Corbisiero.

However Youngs, Lydiate and Bowe come in for Mike Phillips, Tom Croft and Alex Cuthbert as tactical decisions, with the Lions looking to secure their first series triumph since 1997.

"Tommy is obviously a quality player and brings experience," said Gatland.

Fantastic

"He's a fantastic player for Ulster and Ireland. The medics have done a brilliant job with him.

"This is a do-or-die match for Australia so we've decided to add some physicality to the side. Croft and O'Brien can give us explosiveness off the bench.

"The fact we've made five changes shows how strong the squad is. One or two changes have been forced on us by injury.

"We said after the first Test that we had improvement in us and we are confident that this is the case.

"Several players have put their hands up this week and have forced their way into the Test side while several players have returned to fitness.

"That is typical of Lions tours. We want players to constantly push for selection, we then select who is on form and who is available.

"Based on that we have selected a squad that is capable of winning the Test and securing the series."

Croft and Cuthbert are included on the bench, alongside Conor Murray, Ryan Grant and Sean O'Brien - however Phillips misses out completely.

Phillips has struggled with a knee injury during the tour, however Gatland claims Wales No 9 could have played on Saturday.

"Mike was fit and available. He's had problems with a sore knee so he hasn't been able to take a full part in training. The decision was to rest him," Gatland said.

"He's potentially an important component of next weekend. All of the nines have done a great job and we felt it prudent to make sure he was 100% for next week by giving him a few days off his feet."

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