British and Irish Lions: Warren Gatland reveals why Mako Vunipola starts on the bench
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 20/06/13 6:41am
Mako Vunipola: Will look to make an impact off the bench
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has admitted Mako Vunipola was "unlucky" to miss out on the starting XV to face Australia on Saturday.
With Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins having returned home through injury, Vuinpola appeared set to start against the Wallabies at the Suncorp Stadium - with the England loosehead helping his cause with a series of impressive displays on the tour.
Vunipola, though, will have to settle for a place on the bench after compatriot Alex Corbisiero, a late call up to the tour for Healy, was preferred for the No 1 shirt.
And Gatland has claimed Corbisiero got the nod due to his strength in the scrum and the fact the weather is set to have an impact.
"Mako's pretty unlucky. We've looked at the weather conditions and there's a threat of showers," Gatland said.
"No doubt Robbie Deans has looked at Mako technically at scrum time.
"Mako coming off the bench will give us impetus, but Alex is better technically and will give us the edge in the scrum.
"Alex might also prove to be a better combination with Tom Youngs and Adam Jones, but there's no doubt Mako will have an impact."
Gatland admitted that selection he and his backroom staff had used the impressive 47-17 victory over the Waratahs as the template for the
"We went through due process and there was a good discussion about the team," he said.
"Obviously the make up of the loose forwards was one, the make-up of the front row was a big discussion and the make-up of the midfield too.
"A lot of the players were rewarded for their performance last Saturday against the Waratahs. That was an extremely positive performance and a lot of those selected for Saturday played against the Waratahs.
"But given the attrition rate of the series it's important the rest of the squad stay focused. We're a really close-knit group and there's a positive feeling in the team."
The Lions lost 14-12 to the Brumbies in Canberra on Tuesday but Gatland believes the tourists still enter the looming Test series in a position of strength.
"The bottom line is that we have to win. The result against the Brumbies on Tuesday night was bit of a blip for us," he said.
"We've looked at Tuesday and realised that in the conditions we probably tried to play too much rugby.
"But we feel very positive about where we are, we have a few hit-outs under our belts and that's given us that match-hardened edge we've been looking for. Physically we feel in good shape and very fresh.
"The Australian players haven't played for three or four weeks and it's been a bit longer for two of three of their key players because they've been injured. We need to take it to them physically."