Alex Payne looks at the best bets for final Lions-Australia Test
Last Updated: 05/07/13 4:51pm
For the first time in 12 years a Lions series is coming down to the final game.
The general consensus among the Sky Sports team after the second Test was that the Lions would still win the series, but, as the week has gone on, events and selections has seen opinion swing behind the Wallabies.
The re-acquittal of their captain James Howell has given Australia a real boost, so too has the recovery of try scorer Adam Ashley-Cooper - but Robbie Deans played his trump card with the selection of one of their greats, George Smith, four years after his last test for the Wallabies.
Relief has grown into outright confidence.
In contrast, the Lions have had to deal with losing their captain Sam Warburton, who had a huge match in Melbourne, and then the fallout from Brian O'Driscoll's omission and the Welsh heavy selection.
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The fur has certainly flown in reaction, and Warren Gatland will have needed the hide of a rhino not to be affected by it.
As a result of it all, Australia start as slim favourites at 6/5 on, and they will be hard to back against - even past Lions are now wincing when asked for their predictions.
So let's do this two ways.
If you want to go with your head and play the stats game, Australia are your bet; they have had the better of Gatland's Wales on the last eight occasions and know how to handle what's coming.
Further to that, if you agree that South Africa are the most physical side in world rugby, the fact the Wallabies have beaten the Boks in seven of the last nine meetings is a real worry for a Lions side that has been set up to batter their way to victory.
However, if you bet with your heart, and I am guilty of this, then you will believe that Gatland has got his key cog back in Jamie Roberts (13/2 anytime try scorer).
"The Lions have struggled to get over the gain line and the selection of Roberts should ensure that they start to puncture the Wallaby defence."
The Lions have really struggled to get over the gain line and the selection of the good Doctor, and Sean O'Brien on the open side, should ensure that they start to puncture the Wallaby defence.
If they can, it will reignite Mike Phillips (9/2 a/t) and the Lions will have a chance to play. It is also worth mentioning that the Wallabies have lost five of their last six games at Stadium Australia, so it is no fortress.
Everywhere you look it is possible to find reasons for and against. I have said all along the Lions would win the series 2-1 (now at evens) and I can't change now.
I'm going again with the alternative margin at 1-12 at 7/4, though just to cover myself we have been joking this week that if we're working down from a two-point win in the first Test, a one-point win in the second then it must be worth covering off the draw at 20/1.
Elsewhere, the first halves of the first and second Test have both been the highest scoring and it is 11/10 for the same again this weekend. It feels likely, with the final 40 minutes of the series likely to be extremely nervy and tense.
In terms of try scorers, not many of the Lions pack are known for crossing the whitewash - O'Brien's power looks the best shot at 13/2. The money will come in again behind George North (10/1 first try scorer) but I like the look of Leigh Halfpenny to cross at 9/2 anytime.
He averages a try every three and a half games for Wales and rounded off a cracker against the Waratahs after great work from Roberts and Jonathan Davies, who start in the centres on Saturday.
If you're placing your faith in the full-back it would also be worth considering the social media special of Halfpenny to score all the Lions points at 7/2 a/t.
For Australia, Israel Folau again looked dangerous in the second Test, and like North he is worth covering at 10/1 for the first try. There is plenty more to come from Joe Tomane (3/1 a/t) and if you do believe in fairy tales how about George Smith to cross at 8/1 a/t on his 111th and final Test?
Those who know say the first rule of betting is to remove the emotion from it, but for most rugby fans there is no chance of that come Saturday. Here's hoping it is all round joy for the Lions, and your bets. Good luck.
Alex tipped up a 14/1 winner in the 1st Test so check out all his predictions ahead of the decider at Sky Bet.