O'Driscoll: 'They could have broken my neck'

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The Independent Online

Brian O'Driscoll, the Lions captain who was injured in the first minute of a disastrous First Test yesterday, has accused the All Blacks of committing a dangerous tackle.

O'Driscoll was targeted by his opposite number, the New Zealand captain Tana Umaga, and the hooker Keven Mealamu at a ruck. He was upended and dumped on the ground head-first in what the Lions claim was a double "spear" tackle. O'Driscoll suffered a dislocated shoulder.

"What happened was one of the most dangerous things in rugby,'' the Irishman said. "It was a cheap shot. The second I hit the ground, I knew I was out of the tour. But the truth is it could have been an awful lot worse because they could have easily broken my neck. I was turned upside down and speared into the ground.''

Sir Clive Woodward, the Lions head coach, described the incident as a "dreadful foul" which should have warranted red cards. After studying the video, Woodward consulted Richard Smith, a QC who is travelling with the Lions, and the matter was referred to the citing commissioner, the South African Willem Venter. He was reported to have decided that O'Driscoll, who was injured in front of the Australian touch judge Andrew Cole, was not a victim of foul play. Cole is the referee for the Second Test in Wellington next weekend.

However, Venter said he would be interviewing the Lions lock Danny Grewcock, who is alleged to have bitten Mealamu's hand. After the Lions suffered a dismal 21-3 defeat the most damning indictment was delivered by the former Wales full-back JPR Williams, a member of the victorious 1971 Lions here.

"The performance here tonight was an absolute disgrace,'' he said. "You don't spend £9 million on rubbish." This is the most expensively assembled Lions squad in history. "It's not the end of the road,'' Woodward said. On a foul night, the Lions also lost Richard Hill, with a recurrence of a knee injury. Tom Shanklin is heading home, too, after damaging a knee in training. In the face of an All Blacks onslaught the Lions were fortunate to concede only two tries as their line-out suffered meltdown and they barely offered anything constructive in reply. "It was a bad day,'' Woodward said. "We will have to take a look in the mirror.'' Graham Henry, the New Zealand coach, said: "The All Blacks played the better rugby in the conditions." That was an understatement.