MELBOURNE, June 25 (Reuters) - Australia’s forwards could not believe British & Irish Lions lock Paul O’Connell had broken his arm in the first test in Brisbane, given the Irishman packed down for the final scrum as if nothing had happened, Wallabies prop Ben Alexander said.
O’Connell was ruled out of the series on Monday with a fracture in his right forearm, but his bravery in the final minutes of the Lions’ thrilling 23-21 victory last Saturday had left the Wallabies pack with a deep impression.
Injured in the closing minutes, O’Connell was assessed on field by medical staff but waved them away after a few moments to rejoin his team mates.
“Losing O’Connell is a massive blow. In this country he’s got humongous respect,” the 28-year-old Alexander told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday, having watched the Irishman from the touchline in Brisbane after being subbed off.
“Our physio said ‘oh, he’s just broke his arm there’ before the last few scrums. But he got up and we thought ‘oh maybe not’ and he packed those last few scrums with a busted arm.
“(We) didn’t win, so (we) shook hands after the game and you thought ‘ok, maybe he doesn’t have a busted arm.’
“So they’re going to miss that, they’re going to miss that hardness that the Europeans see week in, week out when he plays for Munster and Ireland.
“He’s one of the greatest players I’ve ever played against and he’s a big loss for the Lions.”
As it happened, the Wallaby forwards dominated the final scrum to earn a penalty that Kurtley Beale was unable to convert to win the game.
Despite the disappointment, Australia’s pack was happy to have taken some late points over their opponents, whose forwards coach Graham Rowntree would be “filthy” about it, tighthead Alexander said.
Even though O’Connell will be missed and injury doubts remain over prop Alex Corbisiero, Alexander believes the Lions scrum will always be a handful with Welsh tighthead Adam Jones pulling the strings.
“Whoever scrums with him will definitely scrum well,” Alexander added. “There’s a reason why Adam Jones is as clever and smart as a prop goes in world rugby.
“He’s definitely got more tricks up his sleeve. We’ll see what he does. It’s up to us to do our homework and make sure we’re ready for what he brings.”
Alexander, who has largely owned the Wallabies tighthead position for the past four years, hopes to celebrate his 50th test cap with victory at Melbourne’s Docklands Stadium and believes the Lang Park disappointment will be all the motivation Australia needed.
“Just us coming out of the game and feeling that we should have won, that’s enough momentum to carry us through to the next game,” he said. “We didn’t (win), so there’s areas to fix but (having) that confidence gives us momentum as a group.” (Editing by John O’Brien)