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Stephen Hoiles: Combined Country vs British & Irish Lions

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By Stephen Hoiles


It was always going to be a long tough night at the office for Combined Country against The British & Irish Lions. With a team that has only managed 3 training session together, Combined Country can be proud of the spirit in which they played. Especially in the early parts of the second half. 

With a score line of   64-0, some may suggest that not much was gained from the encounter. But I think both teams got a fair bit out of this game. For every Combined Country player who had the honour representing their hometown this will be a game they will speak proudly of for the rest of their days. A ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. 
You could even go as far as suggesting the Lions coaching staff will be slightly disappointed with certain aspects of the Lions play and some individual performances. Jamie Roberts was one player who hasn’t yet found form. That will concern the Lions selectors as many see him as the starting 12. His centre partner on the other hand, Brian O’Driscoll has shown us yet again that he has plenty of quality Rugby left in him. We have seen him at test level for 14 years now and one aspect of his game that still stands out to me is his competitiveness. He doesn’t give an inch, fights for every meter and is always looking to keep the play alive. He adds another option in attack, whether it be through his passing game, his offloading in contact or his vision under pressure, he is always threatening the defence.  He, in my opinion, has to be the starting 13 for the 1st Test. 
Sean O’Brien was another player who must be knocking on the door for selection. Playing in the unfamiliar role of blindside flanker, he was the dominant forward on the pitch. 
The Lions ability to move the ball under pressure through simple catch pass has surprised me somewhat. Traditionally known for their forward play, this Lions backline is shaping as a real threat to the Qantas wallabies. 
Combined Country seemed a little overawed during the early parts of the game but whatever was said during the halftime break to the home side must have worked because they came out with a different mentality for the 2nd half and it worked. Down 38 - 0 at the break, the score line was threatening to hit triple figures. Holding them to 26 in the second half is something the country boys can be proud of. Hopefully kids playing Rugby in regional parts of Australia can see a pathway from country towns to representative Rugby.