Will Genia will cherish a unique moment in his career when Australia and the British and Irish Lions collide in this morning’s series decider at ANZ Stadium.
While the 2001 Wallabies were initially unaware of what Lions tours meant – their fly-half Steve Larkham has said they thought French players were involved – the 2013 squad have recognised their rarity value from the start.
The series has thrust rugby union, which struggles for exposure in a fiercely competitive Australian sports market, back into the minds of the public, supplying a welcome cash injection in the process.
Whatever the outcome of the final Test, Genia, who is leading the voting in the race to be named player of the series, will reflect on a special opportunity.
“I’ll never forget this. Living and breathing it now, I feel so lucky, blessed and privileged to be here and be a part of this series,” the Queensland Reds scrum-half said.
“It happens once every 12 years. It’s incredible to be a part of the intensity and passion a Lions tour brings to Australia.
“It’s something I’ll look back on and will have fond memories of, regardless of what happens on the weekend. I’ve loved every second of it.”
The Lions have selected a team to overpower Australia and although that has been the case throughout the series, some key personnel are different.
Inside centre Jamie Roberts and number eight Toby Faletau will be making their first Test appearances on tour, while scrum-half Mike Phillips is restored at scrum-half.
In particular, these three of the six changes made following the 16-15 defeat in Melbourne offer brute strength over subtlety.
“The All Blacks like to play really fast, up-tempo rugby, they speed everything up, there’s very little stoppages during the game so you never have time to catch a breath,” Genia said.
“The difference with the Lions is that they really enjoy the physical side of things.
“They’re masters of the set-piece, they like to play that stop-start game where they get to the set piece, get ascendancy and look to take three points wherever they can and assert themselves on the game that way.”
Genia, who has been carrying a knee injury since the first Test, outclassed Phillips in Brisbane and knows what he and his Wales team-mate Roberts will bring to ANZ Stadium.
“Phillips likes to get his hands on the ball and run and get stuck in,” he said.
“He’s abrasive, he’s physical and that’s what he brings to the game. He enjoys the tough challenge of big games and you’d expect him to step up for this one.
“Jamie’s a big guy and he brings that direct running game and he’s big and hard to stop.
“The focus on him is to make sure we tackle low and don’t allow him to get too much over the advantage line and get them front foot ball.”
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