THE BRITISH and Irish Lions have been urged to win the series-deciding final Test against Australia on Saturday for injured captain Sam Warburton by tour manager Alan Irvine.
Warren Gatland’s side hardly need further motivation for the showdown in Sydney, where they are bidding to avenge last week’s narrow second-Test defeat and clinch a first series victory since the 1997 trip to South Africa.
But Warburton is to miss out with a hamstring tear suffered in Melbourne, having been arguably the tourists’ best player for most of that match, and Irvine has demanded the Lions do him justice.
“Obviously he is extremely disappointed at not being available. This is one of the biggest games the Lions have played in 30-40 years,” said the former Scotland full-back.
“We would dearly love to have our captain available for it, particularly as he is in such good form. We can’t hide from it – it’s a big blow to us.
“We are fortunate that it is one of the positions where we have tremendous reserve strength. But we feel for Sam. He has been a super captain, a role model, and hopefully we can go out and win the third Test for him.”
While the Lions will be without their skipper, Australia are set to have theirs available after James Horwill was cleared for a second time of deliberately trampling on Alun Wyn Jones in the first Test.
Irvine described the verdict of the International Rugby Board-convened retrial as “marginal” but attempted to draw a line under the controversy.
“It’s no great shakes as far as we are concerned,” he said. “I’d like to clarify that we had nothing to do with the appeal. We were as surprised as anyone when the IRB said that they were going ahead with an appeal.
“Personally, my view is that it didn’t look very clever, the ball wasn’t close to it, but I’ve seen a hell of a lot worse. If you asked 100 people you would get a 50-50 or 60-40 split; it’s not one of these you’ll get a 95-5 view, it was always going to be marginal. It’s history now.”