The Betfair Contrarian explains why the British and Irish Lions are set to lose out Down Under...
"Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Australians are bred to win in any sport they participate in, and like nothing more than despatching their old colonial masters."
We Brits love nothing more than stoking the flames of sporting anticipation in order for the disappointment to be of an epic magnitude when the real action begins. Shortly, it will be Andy Murray's annual opportunity, but before he crushes the nation again, the British and Irish Lions get their turn in Australia. No touring side has been as over-hyped as this particular ensemble in many a year and the Contrarian for one is rubbing his hands and will be laying the Lions for series success at 1.68/13.
The tour opposition has been hugely mismatched
You only have to look at England's humiliated U21 footballers - who won a series of underwhelming friendlies as build up to their big moment at the Euros - to see the perils of mismatched opposition. Aside from a physical battering against the Queensland Reds, the Lions have been served up a woeful calibre of opponent so far, meaning the tourists could turn up for that vital first test in Brisbane on June 22 totally unprepared for the surge in class. Three of the last four losing tours have witnessed the Lions caught cold in the opening test match. It's a long way back from 1-0 down.
Injuries to key players
Playing so many warm-up games is bound to take its toll in the brutal world of modern rugby union where even the scrum-halves are capable of flattening a young elephant. Prime candidates to start the first test at fly-half, Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell are harbouring injuries. Irishman Sexton has a hamstring problem, while the Saracens number 10 has a dead leg. Having already seen two loose-head props forced out of the tour in Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins, the Lions' dismay was compounded by a shoulder injury to English centre Manu Tuilagi. The centre was one of several casualties from a bruising encounter with the Queensland Reds, which included wing Tommie Bowe. The Irishman's own tour has now been thrown into serious doubt after he underwent an operation to fix a broken bone in his hand.
The Wallabies are a great side
It's extremely easy to harp on about the perceived qualities the tourists have in their ranks, while ignoring the fact that there are two teams in this contest. You only have to scan the Wallabies' recent results - they are unbeaten in seven of their last nine test matches - to see the evidence. Last year's northern hemisphere tour produced wins in Wales, England and Italy with only the French getting the better of them. Meanwhile, their last test on home soil produced a draw against the world champion Kiwis.
Lions tours usually end in defeat
Even though this distinctly Welsh-flavoured Lions squad is full of talent, they're not the first touring party to land on southern hemisphere shores harbouring grand aspirations. A collector's item of a series win in South Africa back in 1997 was the last time the British and Irish Lions returned home victorious. Since then they've lost the subsequent three tours, including a 3-0 whitewash by New Zealand back in 2005. In fact the grim reading continues for Warren Gatland's raiders when you consider just two of the last nine tours have ended in glory.
Australians are born to win
Ignoring the unusual decline of the Aussie test cricket team in recent years, which two years ago gave England a first away Ashes victory since 1987, sporting outfits from British shores don't do winning Down Under very often. Love 'em or hate 'em, Australians are bred to win in any sport they participate in, and like nothing more than despatching their old colonial masters. Soon-to-be World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson was the last man to lead the Lions in Oz back in 2001, collecting a 2-1 series defeat as a souvenir for his side's efforts.