Brian O’Driscoll is back where it all began as a Lion, back in Australia and preparing for the only farewell that is guaranteed as his glittering rugby career comes to an end.
Just 12 years after he made his Lions debut in a land down under, O’Driscoll knows this is definitely his last tour with the side that flies the flags of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Captain for Wednesday’s game against Western Australia in Perth, O’Driscoll isn’t even guaranteed a place in the test side on his return to Australia. But he is determined to enjoy every minute of the experience on his fourth Lions tour.
His impact in 2001 was quite something as he scored an unforgettable solo try during the first Test victory over the Wallabies in Brisbane.
Addressing the media in Perth on Tuesday, Dricco said, “Yes, it was a fantastic feeling. I was a young guy just starting out on my career. It was all very new to me.
“I suppose I was just trying to go with the flow and feel my way into things, and pulling on the jersey for the first time was a very, very special moment and something I will always remember.
“But it is one thing pulling the jersey on, it’s another thing winning with the Lions, and that is the mentality we’ve got across the squad.
“It is very exciting. I haven’t lost any of the buzz for the feeling of being involved with the British and Irish Lions. It is a very, very special place to be.”
Clearly the 34-year-old likes Australia and the Wallaby brand of rugby.
He added, “I like it because I enjoy the country, the people, the big mixture to it. I enjoy the weather, and I enjoy playing against some of the top opposition.
“When you play Australia and Australian teams, you have to really try and out-think them. That is another factor to the game besides trying to out-muscle them and being more physical than them. You have to be tactically astute both in attack and defensively.
“All of those things make it an exciting proposition. I have fond memories of good days, some not so good days. Some of my best memories of rugby are playing against Australia and in Australia.
“Now that we’ve finally arrived in Australia the tour kind of feels it has truly begun. We were pleased with how we started with the win against the Barbarians on Saturday, but we’ve got to continue building, working hard at training and when we get to games trying to build a bit of a ruthlessness about our mentality and our performance.”
Having had his captaincy cut short by an infamous spear tackle on the 2005 tour to New Zealand, O’Driscoll knows exactly what the Lions must do to finally taste victory in Australia.
“We have to be ruthless in our approach and play,” said O’Driscoll. “You tend not to be able to just tip away and then get to the Test series and be phenomenal.
“It doesn’t work like that. You have really got to work towards building your game plan, your defensive systems, your kicking game and all the different dimensions of the game.
“So when you do get to the Test, they are at a very high level and you are able to kick it on to the next level. It is very difficult if you are just stuttering and starting in the first five or six games.
“It is not just up to me to show the ruthlessness needed. It is up to everyone. Sam Warburton is driving that as captain. The guys who’ve been on previous tours certainly understand it.
“But the guys on their first tours understand it too. It is part of being professional and if we are to win the series, we all have to be aware of it and what’s required. It’s one thing pulling the Lions jersey on, it’s another thing winning with the Lions.”
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