Matt Dawson column: British and Irish Lions crying out for creative player

Matt Dawson

This British and Irish Lions series is crying out for a touring player to create a moment that turns the tide.

I was surprised by the Lions' lack of innovation in Saturday's series-levelling 27-9 loss to South Africa.

In that game, I was expecting the Lions to keep the ball in hand more and create more opportunities for South Africa to have to defend.

They stopped competing at the line-out, they were not competing at the rucks. I was slightly perplexed as to why the Lions did not play more rugby.

It is obvious looking at the Lions squad what head coach Warren Gatland thinks they need to do to win in South Africa.

Having the bulk and power play is of course needed, but there have got to be some out of the box thinkers.

None of the backs had an opportunity to do anything on Saturday. The Lions backline looked almost traditionally South African - very big, strong and making big tackles but not creating opportunities.

These are massive Test matches and you need certain individuals to play at that level. Over the years you have had Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Brian O'Driscoll, and there was also Jonathan Davies.

That midfield needs a bit of yin and yang and at the moment it is very predictable. That is where the improvement could come for the Lions, if they had another ball player.

'Lions are the underdogs now'

Owen Farrell catches the ball
England captain Owen Farrell was on the bench for the first two Test matches

I would not be surprised if Gatland makes some selection calls for the deciding Test which we did not see coming. He may have to roll the dice.

He knows the mentality of the players who can win the game - and he has got to find them pretty quick.

Gatland may return to those he knows well from his time as Wales coach like Liam Williams.

I do not think they can go into that Test match with a gameplan of just kicking the ball and hoping they pick up the scraps.

When they get battered in the air that is risky so maybe scrum-half Ali Price should come back in for Conor Murray.

An obvious choice is putting Owen Farrell at 12. He has not played a lot of rugby with Saracens being in the Championship last season and he has not been on top form but he is a Test match animal.

I also think wing Josh Adams has got to come in because he can deliver on the big stage.

The Lions have been so hell-bent on physicality, which they have delivered, but they are not getting the balance right with creativity.

It is often easier when you have been battered like that to make some significant changes individually and collectively and do something about it, rather than cruise around and be happy that you have won the match.

The underdog tag has moved onto the Lions and there is going to be plenty of motivation. It is a huge pressure week for the players.

'Players would talk about this win for the rest of their lives'

Winning this series would be the greatest achievement of these players' career.

There are a few, including captain Alun Wyn Jones, who were on the winning tour of Australia in 2013.

A series win is a series win but winning in South Africa and New Zealand is maybe worth 0.5% more than winning in Australia.

For these players, this is something they will be talking about for the rest of their lives.

It will be decided on the toss of a coin. For rugby fans, as much as they are going to be upset that the Lions were demolished in that second half, the fact that it goes to a decider is an absolute dream.

From the players' perspective the Lions need to dust themselves down because that defeat is going to scar.

They have lost the momentum that they had after the opening win and South Africa have got a spring in their step.

They are puffing their chests out thinking, 'this is why we are world champions'. If number eight Duane Vermeulen comes back from injury for the final Test there is going to be so much positivity around the Springboks.

It is the Lions v South Africa. These are Test matches steeped in history. There is a lot at stake. None of these players are going to get this opportunity again and they will want to grasp it with both hands.

'Erasmus video gave Springboks an edge'

Rassie Erasmus acting as a waterboy during a game
South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus posted an hour-long video online critiquing Nic Berry's refereeing in the first Test

I think both the Lions' complaints about the use of a South African television match official before the first Test and Rassie Erasmus' video critiquing the refereeing before the second Test had an impact on the games.

We were all talking about it. The people involved are going to be thinking about it. It would have motivated the teams.

I am sure something will come about in the future when you are not allowed to do what Erasmus did but it is well within the laws of the game now.

Test matches are won on fine margins and I would believe that South Africa had an edge about them because of the video.

It gave them something to beat their chest and shout and scream about in the changing room.

As a coach you have got to find those pinch points. I am not saying I totally agree with it but it has been going on for years.

It is going to get dissected because of the enormity of the game but it has always been there.

Matt Dawson was speaking to BBC Sport's Becky Grey

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