British and Irish Lions Tour 2013: Brian O’Driscoll set to be given captain’s role ... or place on bench


As Brian O’Driscoll talked about the “mourning period” following the Lions’ one-point defeat in the Melbourne Test, it was possible to believe that he had never felt so utterly dejected in all his time as an international rugby player. And this from a man who had seen two series victories snatched from him at the death – Australia in 2001, South Africa in 2009 – and, in between in New Zealand, been the victim of one of the more infamous assaults in recent rugby history.

It was unnerving, listening to the great Irish centre attempt to exorcise his demons in a tone so flat it made you wonder whether he could even begin to raise himself for one last red-shirted shot at the Wallabies in Sydney this weekend. “It’s important to feel the disappointment because if you try to banish it immediately, it will keep coming back to you, as it is now at times throughout the day,” he said. “You’re thinking of how the scenario could be different – of how we could already have the series in the bag, rather than having it still there to fight for.

“But after a couple of days, you must have the ability to shelve it and focus on the target. One more 80 minutes is all that’s being asked of everyone in the squad. The 80 minutes of their lives.”

This has been a difficult series for O’Driscoll – a tighter, more attritional and far more narrowly-focused affair than his previous visit here as a Lion, a dozen years ago. Then, he finished the first Test as the king of Brisbane following a solo try of stellar quality and then went to toe-to-toe with the high-class Wallaby midfielder Daniel Herbert every step of the way. Here, armed with the iron will and grim determination of the true master competitor but transparently lacking the pace of old, he has found life frustrating, not least because the referees have taken a dislike to his work at the tackle area.

What will happen in selection if Jamie Roberts, the Welshman with whom he forged such a potent combination in South Africa four years back, is declared fit for Sydney and given a place in the starting line-up? There are plenty inside the Lions camp who believe Jonathan Davies, another Welshman, has been the best centre on tour and would deserve to keep his place. And as any fool knows, three into two doesn’t go.

But with the tour captain Sam Warburton now out of the final Test with a hamstring injury, O’Driscoll, the party’s conscience and heartbeat rolled into one, is the obvious choice to shoulder the burden of leadership. Even if there were other strong candidates to skipper the side, which there aren’t, it would be a mighty call to give a player of the Dubliner’s standing the heave-ho - the biggest made by a Lions coach since Ian McGeechan dropped the England captain Will Carling after the first Test of the series with the All Blacks in 1993. Warburton’s demise means this is most unlikely to happen.

Pressed on the subject of selection, the Dubliner took a phlegmatic approach apparently at odds with his can-do, make-it-happen rugby personality. “I suppose it’s the coach’s prerogative to identify what he wants from his team and work out what side is capable of delivering it on the weekend,” he said. “On a tour like this, it’s about striking the balance in your combinations between guys who haven’t played too much rugby and those who are flagging just a little bit.

“Particularly when you’ve lost a game, every place is up for scrutiny. Does a person deserve to be in the jersey again? When you don’t win, that’s the question the coaches ask. I won’t go chewing my nails off thinking about it: I’ll go with the flow like everyone else. Hopefully, I’ll be included in the team for this game. If I’m not…I’ll deal with that if it arises.”

On a happier note, O’Driscoll was completely behind the decision to bring the Lions to the Sunshine Coast for two clear days - or, thanks to the rain, not so clear days - of quality R and R. “You have to make sure you don’t do too much training in the final week,” he said. “There’s a lot in the bank already - at this stage, there’s not a huge amount to learn about the opposition, or indeed about ourselves - so it’s more about getting the detail right and saving the energy for the pitch.

“You have to be able to switch off from rugby for 24 or 48 hours, even in a Lions series. We’ve spoken about this just recently and it’s important to get it right. Historically, the difficult week is the fifth week, the one leading into the second Test, because the players who play on the Tuesday night and aren’t picked for the Saturday…I suppose there’s chance for them to go off-tour a little bit. What I like about this squad, what I’ve been unbelievably impressed by, is the manner in which those guys have carried themselves.

“Everything is for the betterment of the team, not the individual. We’re still tight and we’re still after the common goal, irrespective of who is in the Test 23. When the relaxation time is up and we kick back into training and team meetings and rugby talk, we’ll be ready for it.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album