Planet Rugby

The British & Irish Lions


Lions beware: Five pivotal Wallabies

29th May 2013 15:29


Scott Higginbotham close up for Wallabies

In great form: Scott Higginbotham

Amid all the hype surrounding the 2013 Lions, Planet Rugby has decided it is time to put the spotlight on some of Australia's dangermen in the series.

This quintet does not include stars like James O'Connor and Will Genia - instead we have selected the form men in Super Rugby who are somewhat under the radar going into June.

Here are Australia's five to watch!

Scott Higginbotham - In our eyes the outstanding number eight in Super Rugby this season. His ability to mix strength with speed and skill sets him apart from his rivals. Higginbotham has scored an incredible seven tries so far in 2013 - two off leaders Frank Halai and Israel Folau - as his off-season move from the Reds to the Rebels is paying off. He is captain at the Melbourne franchise which illustrates how he must have impressed both coach Damien Hill and his team-mates in such a short space of time. We were set on a Higginbotham-Hooper-Smith back-row (Smith at 6) before the latter suffered a knee injury so subsequently the Rebel could find himself on the blindside, with either Wycliff Palu or the uncapped Ben Mowen wearing eight.

Christian Lealiifano - Robbie Deans has a call to make at 12 as he's long gone for Pat McCabe as a straight-running option. However, the Brumby's injury issues could lead to another filling the void as Lealiifano looks set to step in long-term. He has been excellent in 2013 and bounces back from an ankle issue that hampered his 2012. It seems he has the whole package in terms of carrying, creating and kicking while his defence has also been good in Super Rugby so far. Of course, the big question will now be how he holds up in the pressure of a Lions series. Should see off Rob Horne for the inside centre jersey.

Stephen Moore - Would have been my starting hooker for the Wallabies even before Tatafu Polota-Nau suffered his unfortunate forearm injury, against Moore's Brumbies. Moore, who boasts a wealth of experience at international level, sets a consistently high standard and is now likely to dominate the minutes versus the Lions, with Saia Faingaa riding the pine in June/July. Deans need not worry about Moore's throwing while his carrying and fitness means he doesn't drop in performance level throughout. The question on Lions supporters' lips however will be who will be facing Moore at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on June 22.

Israel Folau - The marquee signing in Australia during the off-season and how he is paying back those dollars. Folau arrived at the Waratahs from Greater Western Sydney, a Australia Football League side who he'd joined following his rugby league stints at Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos. He possesses quite a CV at the tender age of 24 and has quickly settled into a new venture in XVs, scoring eight tries for the 'Tahs. As mentioned, Folau sits atop the try standings alongside Halai and is favourite to wear the Gold 15 jersey against the Lions. Watch out for his ability to rise for the high ball and his deceptive speed and strength, which has been causing opposing Super Rugby outfits a great deal of bother.

Sitaleki Timani - Last but by no means least, the Lions should be wary of the sizeable figure of 121kg, 203cm Timani. The Waratahs lock will be leaving Super Rugby at the end of the campaign for Montpellier but will, of course, want to sign off with a Lions scalp. While the tourists' lock combination remains very much up in the air, Australia will undoubtedly go for Timani and James Horwill, with Rob Simmons coming off the bench. Timani will be utilised predominantly as a carrier but offers much more than that in terms of his ruck presence and work-rate in defence. An under-rated entity who the Lions will know about soon enough.

By Adam Kyriacou