Rugby

O'Driscoll ready to lead Lions

2012-12-19 11:43
Brian O'Driscoll (Getty)
London - Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll will move heaven and earth to win a place on the Lions tour but has no interest in touring if it means leaving Australia a "loser" again.

The greatest centre of the modern era turns 34 next month and is recovering from ankle surgery. The only reason he is prepared to go to the well one last time is to experience his first series win as a Lions player and to help the famous touring team to their first victorious trip since 1997.

O'Driscoll, who also says he would be happy to serve as captain again if required by coach Warren Gatland, has been on three tours and tasted defeat in five of his six Test matches. That is not a record he reflects on with any great pleasure and putting it right is high on his agenda.

"If you said you can get on the trip to Australia but you are not going to win the series I would have no interest," O'Driscoll said in Leicester last night, where he was starring in An Audience With TV special to be broadcast over Christmas. "I have already done three tours. The only reason to go on another Lions trip would be to win the series, to do something that I haven't experienced before.
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"I've been to Australia before, I've seen a lot of the route and I've seen the all places. It's great but I can go on my holidays and do that. It's all about winning the series.

"I don't want to go on four Lions tours and win none of them. People don't remember losing Lions tours, they only remember winning tours. Different guys will go at different stages of their careers and some will enjoy the excitement of a first trip, but I don't need any more experience, I just want to win one. And the Lions need to win one. They are wonderful trips but they are unsustainable if you go time and time again and the home nation always wins.

"It's such a difficult thing in the modern era and that's not to take away to the tours in the Seventies, and even prior to that. Now it's much more compact and the teams you play are more organised. This series is very winnable whatever team goes down there, but it's very losable too."

O'Driscoll's hunger will be music to Gatland's ears and if fully fit, he must stand every chance of one final Lions hurrah in Australia after a career which started gloriously there in 2001 when he scored one of the best tries of his career in a sensational 29-13 win in the first Test at the Gabba. Since then, though, he has endured much less happy times.

Martin Johnson's side slipped to a 2-1 defeat in that series and then O'Driscoll was carried out of the 2005 tour he was captaining to New -Zealand on a stretcher with a -dislocated shoulder when he was the victim of the notorious spear tackle by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu 40 seconds into the first Test.

In 2009, after captaining Ireland to a Grand Slam, O'Driscoll enjoyed a more relaxed role as the senior pro behind the scrum in South Africa, with Paul O'Connell taking on the captaincy. The Lions contributed fully to a superb series, but they still lost, and O'Driscoll's participation ended midway through the second Test when he knocked himself out -making a thunderous tackle on Danie -Rossouw.

And 2013? One thing is for certain, if he is considered to be playing well enough to tour he must be one of the front-runners for the captaincy, in which case he would join Johnson as the only man to do the job twice.

"Having been captain on a tour, then toured when I'm not captain, I can tell you it is very different," O'Driscoll said. "There is a lot of pressure as the Lions skipper. It was a lot more relaxing just being another player in South Africa, I was able to enjoy it and there was less scrutiny than there had been in New Zealand.

"Paul did a good job in 2009, but we fell short as a team. Whoever does the job this time has to use the leadership group around him. There will be some guys who have been on previous tours and it is important to get them working for the captain. The key is that there is a tight-knit squad with a common goal, whatever the individual highs and lows along the way.

"It would be impossible to turn down the opportunity if I was asked to be captain again, even though there are huge stresses that go with it. So many names are being bandied around at the moment that I genuinely don't take much heed.

"Your captain needs to be starting in the Test team, and it is difficult to say at this stage that there is anyone in Britain and Ireland who is guaranteed to be starting."

Read more on:    brian o'driscoll  |  rugby
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