O'Driscoll in confident mood
June 19, 2009
Brian O'Driscoll is excited about the first Test against the Springboks © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions centre Brian O'Driscoll believes that the tourists have laid the foundations for a successful Test series against World Champions South Africa. The Lions head in to the first Test in Durban on Saturday with an unbeaten record in their tour matches, the first time that they have done so since the victorious 1989 tour of Australia.
O'Driscoll also believes that off-field the Lions have struck the correct balance, with Ian McGeechan's squad possessing a togetherness that was missing from the 2005 expedition to New Zealand. O'Driscoll skippered that squad under the tutelage of Clive Woodward, but saw his tour ended after a matter of seconds thanks to a spear tackle from All Blacks skipper Tana Umaga and hooker Keven Mealamu.
"We are where we want to be. We have won all our games, our training has been good, the environment has been good," said O'Driscoll. "I think we are better equipped (than in 2005) to win the opening Test because the team is more together. We have more of an idea what we need to do. We need things to go right for us but I feel we have the capability to create a huge amount and the work rate and the mentality as well.
"I want to be part of a winning Lions series, I have said it from day one. I had no interest in touring and being part of a squad that lost the series. I have been there and done that. I would like to be part of a team that creates history and does something special. That starts on Saturday."
This season O'Driscoll has ticked off two career goals - winning the Six Nations Grand Slam with Ireland before securing the Heineken Cup with Leinster - but still has unfinished business in a Lions jersey as he prepares to win his fifth Test cap on his third tour.
"This is where you want to be, this is the pinnacle of being a rugby player in Britain and Ireland, being down here against the world champions," he said. "I wont over-think things. I will treat it like another Test match and try and enjoy the atmosphere as much as I can and play as best I can. We will play it seriously but we will play it with a smile on our face."
There were few surprises when the Lions announced the team yesterday because head coach Ian McGeechan has been building key combinations through the tour. While Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips are familiar from playing together with Wales, the back row of Tom Croft, Jamie Heaslip and David Wallace has clicked impressively. And so too has O'Driscoll's midfield relationship with the powerful Wales centre Jamie Roberts.
"In the games we have played we have clicked reasonably well but we are a work in progress," said O'Driscoll. "We have enjoyed playing with one another. He is a big physical guy but he has got nice skills too and people probably don't give him the credit he deserves. It is nice to play off his shoulder. He is multi-skilled and it is nice to play off an inside centre like that."
He teed up Obolensky's try, fought in Burma and played cricket for Warwickshire - we Rewind to look at the story of Peter Cranmer
With the World Cup just a year away, Tom Hamilton picks out five matches to ensure you have tickets for
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup