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.”

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionShame it had to end like that, says Alexander Fury
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?