Lions tour 'like your shot at forever'
June 17, 2013
Paul O'Connell partnered Alun Wyn Jones against the Waratahs © Getty Images
Three-time British & Irish Lions tourist Paul O'Connell has flagged the importance of the week leading into the first Test, and the match in Brisbane itself, in the overall success of the tour campaign to win the Tom Richards Cup and claim a first series victory since 1997.
The 2001 Lions party fractured in the week leading into the first Test in Brisbane, when it became plainly apparent that a number of players were not considered for Test contention, and the two subsequent tours to New Zealand in 2005 and South Africa in 2009 got off to a bad start with defeat in the first Test.
"It's a tough place to be when you don't play well and you don't justify your selection," O'Connell when asked about the coming week after the Lions had dismissed New South Wales Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on Saturday. "I was on the tour in 2005, and to this day it was probably the toughest rugby experience of my life. You have this big expectation of what a Lions tour is going to be; I didn't play well - a lot of us didn't play well - and it was a very disappointing place to be after the tour.
"'09 was a little bit different, but at the same time it was a missed opportunity. For a lot of guys, it's like the World Cup, it's like your shot at forever. If you can play well and produce a big performance, I loved the last Test, the feeling and the buzz we got after the last Test on the previous Lions tour, and hopefully we can produce something like that again in the next few weeks."
For the British & Irish Lions to retain that winning feeling against the Wallabies on Saturday, O'Connell said they had to minimise mistakes to maintain momentum. "It's important not to compound mistakes," he said. "A few times there, we scored good tries, built momentum, but we didn't follow up and put them under pressure again." Chief among the mistakes, O'Connell noted that defence coach Andy Farrell would have been disappointed the Lions had been undone again from a quick lineout, as against Queensland Reds the previous week.
O'Connell also flagged that the Wallabies could see a more direct approach, saying "we probably could have mauled a bit more" against the Waratahs. "The maul worked well for us. We made ground, drew penalties."
Listen to the full interview with Paul O'Connell in the sound file below, in which he talks about the Lions being "as good as any other team I've been with", the physical preparations for the coming Test series, playing with Alun Wyn Jones ...
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker