Lions 2013: Phillips versus Genia is key clash, says Delve

Mike Phillips

The scrum-half battle between Mike Phillips and Will Genia will decide the Test series between the Lions and Australia, according to Gareth Delve.

Delve has played alongside Phillips for Wales and has played against Wallaby Genia in the Super 15.

"I'd say Mike Phillips would be my pick for the Lions scrum-half and his battle with Genia will be huge," said Delve.

"They can take a game by the scruff of the neck and, if it's not going their way, turn it back towards their team."

Phillips, favourite to take the scrum-half role in the Lions test side ahead of Ben Youngs, has never been on the winning side in five attempts when facing Genia.

Their most recent dual was a year ago in Australia when the home side emerged with a series win over Wales, where the teams were separated by a total of only 11 points over the three games.

"They're two different types of players," said 30-year-old Delve, who will end a three-year spell with Melbourne Rebels at the end of the Super 15 season.

"Mike's almost an extra back rower with his power game and Will's there pulling the strings with a great running game as well.

"It's certainly where we lost the first Test where we didn't keep enough of an eye on Genia up in Brisbane last year. If he has that sort of influence again, it's all game over, really.

"So the scrum-halves are definitely going to be a massive point."

Delve has played for Wales under Lions coach Warren Gatland and expects the Lions to try to dominate Australia's pack of forwards.

He sees it as a classic clash of styles with the Lions employing their power in a bid to overwhelm the guile of the Wallabies backs.

"I do think it's going to come down to the Lions' power game against the guile of Will Genia and Quade Cooper unleashing the Wallaby backs. But I think it'll be a tight one," said Delve.

"That nine-10 combination for the [Queensland] Reds has been on fire this season. Possibly that will swing it the Wallabies way unless we do get a really big advantage up front."

Genia and Cooper's combined flair and creativity helped propel the Reds to the 2011 Super Rugby title. Both suffered major knee injuries last year but have returned to impressive form ahead of the Lions tour.

While Genia is assured of selection, New Zealand-born Cooper missed out on the initial squad and will have to make the most of his chance to impress Australia coach Robbie Deans when the Reds host the Lions on 8 June.

The Lions open the 2013 tour against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on Saturday.

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