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Andy Robinson: My three Lions to scatter the Wallabies

 Justin TipuricFormer England and Scotland head coach Andy Robinson has earmarked Justin Tipuric, Tom Youngs and Leigh Halfpenny as his Lions players to dazzle during the tour of Australia.

Robinson is excited by the dynamism of Wales flanker Tipuric, who, he believes, will form the Test back row with captain Sam Warburton and Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip

And former Lions tourist  Robinson has backed Leicester bolter Youngs to complete a remarkable transition from Championship centre at Bedford to Lions Test hooker.

He told The Rugby Paper: “Those are the three I believe will impress and, as far as Youngs is concerned, you’ve got to look at what he can bring on hard grounds, because in the loose he might catch out the Aussies.

“Being a former centre, he’s very quick and he’s got excellent footballing skills. He can be one of those players you look at and go, ‘wow!’

“He’ll be working hard in the pack but with the power game the Lions play and the centres running hard, he’ll be able to run off them because his pace and footballing ability will shine through.

Robinson added: “For Halfpenny, this is a defining tour. He’s got great skills, great aerial ability, his running ability from deep is impressive and he can kick goals.

“I expect to see something special from Halfpenny, but he’ll be under pressure from someone like Stuart Hogg, who could also be exciting on hard grounds with his pace.

“As for Tipuric, if he can find some real form it will be exciting to watch because he changed the last Six Nations game against England.

“It was a close affair but Tipuric was able to utilise his running skills out wide and against a side like Australia, who are really good defenders, you need somebody with that ability who can produce game-changing moments.

“I like the way Tipuric plays. His speed to the breakdown means he will make a difference. With Warburton and Heaslip, it would make a very good back row to counter what Australia throw at them.”

Robinson toured Australia twice with the Lions – a player in 1989 and in 2001 as assistant coach to Graham Henry.

He was also a member of Sir Clive Woodward’s backroom team during England’s victorious World Cup campaign of 2003.

Robinson appreciates the unique Wallaby psyche: never more dangerous than when written off. He said: “I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of playing and coaching against the Australians because they’re so competitive, which fits with me.

“They produce high skill levels and have the best defensive technique of any international side. They’re tough to break down and they’ve worked hard on their scrummaging, which people underestimate.

“The 2001 Lions series summed Australia up. After beating them in Brisbane, they could easily have been steamrollered, but they weren’t going to allow that and, allied to their competitive nature, came back and beat us.

“England eventually beat them in 2003, but they wouldn’t lie down. That’s the beauty of Australia and that’s what the Lions will face.”

Livewire Wallaby scrum-half Will Genia is the man Robinson identifies as the main danger along with winger Digby Ioane.

He said: “As a running threat, Genia is one of the best No.9s at being able to manipulate and attack around the fringes. And if Ioane is allowed to play that’s a very dangerous combination.”

Robinson will not predict a scoreline but adds: “I hope it goes to the third match. The third Test in 2001 was probably the best I’ve been involved in and if we get anything half as good this time, it will be a magnificent series.”

Andy Robinson OBE is hosting a ‘Coaching the coaches’ clinic at Harrow School on Friday June 21, between 10am and 3pm. As well as presenting his coaching philosophy, he will conduct live training sessions and hold a pre-Lions first Test Q&A. Cost is £85 per person. To attend this exclusive event ring: 07894 489417 or email: info@professionalrugbycoaching.com

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